Thursday, 08 September 2016 08:00

Wildlife fencing should alleviate collision concerns

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Workers erect fencing along a stretch of Highway 3 near Emerald Lake in the hopes of reducing the number of wildlife and vehicle collisions. Workers erect fencing along a stretch of Highway 3 near Emerald Lake in the hopes of reducing the number of wildlife and vehicle collisions. Photo contributed by Rob Schaufele

Officials with Road Watch and Collision Count in the Crowsnest Pass were pleased to see after years of collecting significant data, the provincial government decide to install wildlife fencing along both sides of Highway 3 near Emerald Lake.

In mid-August, the provincial government announced work would begin to install the fencing along the critical wildlife corridor, after working with numerous environmental groups to do so.
“Improving traffic safety while protecting wildlife along our highways is a win-win and shows the value of working with our partners on such critical projects,” said Brian Mason, minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a news release.
“This is the kind of collaboration our government will continue to engage in to come up with made-in-Alberta solutions for Alberta issues.”
About 1,440 metres of wildlife fencing has been installed in four sections along Highway 3 near Emerald Lake. The fence is 2.4 metres high and located about nine metres from the shoulder of the road. The fencing is meant to help funnel animals, especially bighorn sheep, towards an existing bridge so they can safely cross under the highway.
The government spent about $280,000 on the project.
Tracy Lee, senior project manager with the Miistakis Institute, and one of the partners involved with the project, says they are pleased to see government officials decide to proceed with this fencing project.
“We think it’s very beneficial,” she says. “It’s a high collision area with bighorn sheep, so it’s important from a human safety perspective and a wildlife movement perspective.”
Lee is hopeful this fencing will deter wildlife from crossing the road. Research done for many years has proven wildlife collisions are a problem in the area. A report done in 2010 showed that fencing would be of benefit to wildlife and humans.
The cost effectiveness of the project has also been studied. It showed that when looking at the cost of wildlife collisions versus the cost of mitigation work, it make sense to invest in infrastructure such as fencing because of the high costs of collisions.
“Alberta Transportation Southern Region has been extremely supportive of this project and made this happen,” adds Lee. “It’s been a long time coming and we’re really glad to see it.”
Lee says there is a second phase to this project, they hope to see completed as well. It is creating some kind of safe passage, likely an underpass, for wildlife crossing at Rock Creek, west of the junction of Highway 22 and Highway 3.
“That is a high collision area, especially for deer,” she adds. “There is a small ravine there and wildlife will come up and across the highway and back down the other side. It is a multi-species crossing area with elk and bears crossing the area. It is (on the government’s) radar.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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