Friday, 09 September 2016 08:00

Volunteers happy to see mitigation work along Highway 3

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Some sheep hang around the construction area where fencing is being built to keep them from crossing the highway. Some sheep hang around the construction area where fencing is being built to keep them from crossing the highway. Photo contributed by Rob Schaufele

Volunteers with the Road Watch and Collision Count projects in the Crowsnest Pass were celebrating when they saw wildlife fencing being constructed along Highway 3 in August.

They have been advocating for some kind of mitigation work for a number of years.
Rob Schaufele is one person who knows how long it has taken to see some kind of wildlife fencing through this particular area of the Pass near Emerald Lake. He oversees the Road Watch in the Pass and Collision Count citizen science projects.
Volunteers with the Road Watch project have been collecting data about wildlife killed in vehicle collisions since 2004. A report released in 2010 highlighted where there were serious issues where the highest number of animals were being killed.
Then in 2014, the new project, Collision Count, started up in the Pass that is overseen by the Miistakis Institute.
Volunteers look for the carcasses of wildlife that are just off the highway, but can’t be seen from the roadway.
“One of the spots we’ve collected data is right at Emerald Lake where the fencing is going,” points out Schaufele. “It’s one of our hotspots. It’s not where there’s the most numbers of wildlife, but a lot of bighorn sheep are killed there.”
There is a local population of bighorn sheep known as the Crowsnest Lake herd. They move across the highway and are often impacted by collisions.
In 2013, there were almost a dozen sheep killed which represented about 10 per cent of the bighorn sheep population in the area.
“So, it is important to put some mitigation in there,” adds Schaufele.
The work on this fencing project is made easier, as government officials didn’t have to worry about building a wildlife overpass in the area. There is an existing vehicle overpass at Emerald Lake and wildlife naturally migrate towards this area crossing under that bridge. This fencing will funnel animals that direction, allowing for safe passage.
There area also jumpouts being built which is a safety measure put in place in case an animal gets on the wrong side of the fence and on the highway. These are ramps built up against the fence where an animal can walk up and over the fence, jumping off of it, but they only work one way.
“It’s been designed really well,” points out Schaufele about the fencing project. He adds there has been a lot of work done with experts in the field as well professionals who have done work in other places including Banff.
Schaufele says volunteers with both the Road Watch and Collision Count programs were pleased to hear the government commit to fencing as they have been wanting to see some kind of mitigation for a long time.
“We see carcasses on a daily basis here,” he adds, about wildlife involved in vehicle collisions.
Schaufele also acknowledged the other groups involved in the project including Anatum Ecological Consulting Ltd., Miistakis Institute, Western Transportation Institute, Volker Stevin and Alberta Environment and Parks.
“A lot of volunteers and local people in the Pass have been concerned about this for a long time. Their persistence has paid off...”
Schaufele adds this fencing project also is significant for government as it is the first time this kind of mitigation has taken place outside of a parks area.
Through starting up Collision Count, Schaufele is hopeful more knowledge can be gained about other hotspots where wildlife carcasses are found.
Volunteers walk specific pathways in the Crowsnest Pass, and when they come across carcasses, locations are recorded using GPS technology, as well as specifics about the carcass such as species and a photo can be taken.
“The main thing it’s designed for, is a correctness factor for data that’s already been collected over the years. The number is quite a bit larger than what was thought because (these animals) can die away from the highway,” Schaufele explains.
Volunteers are always being sought for the citizen science projects. People are asked to make a six-month commitment and should be able to do hikes twice a month. Those hikes aren’t long or extremely difficult.
“It’s pretty nice terrain and they will see quite a few interesting things,” adds Schaufele.
Anyone interested in volunteering can email Rob Schaufele at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Rose Sanchez

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