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For humans, road systems are essential, taking us everywhere we need to go. But for the critters we share the Earth with, they can be disruptive and dangerous.
In the United States alone, it’s estimated that vehicle-animal collisions cost $8 billion a year
That’s why conservationists around the world have come up with the idea of wildlife bridges.
In the U.S.A. alone, it’s estimated that vehicle-animal collisions cost $8 billion a year. With over one-fifth of the country’s ecology affected by road systems, there are lots of opportunities for collisions with an animal, or accidents caused by swerving to avoid an animal.
People have crosswalks to let them get across roads safely, so why not animals? If you’re thinking it might be hard to train the wildlife to obey traffic signals, you may be right.
The solution is clear: let them cross any time, safely, in a place where there is no human traffic.
It seems like a pretty simple idea
And since they can’t go through it, they need to go over or under the road. It seems like a pretty simple idea — obvious, even — but passages to allow animals to travel safely over and under busy roadways are revolutionizing the interaction between humans and wildlife along roadways.
After installing them in Banff National Park in Canada, the number of incidents involving cars and creatures dropped over 80%, and other areas have reported up to a 90% decrease in roadkill collisions.
Animal bridges originated in 1950s France, and have now spread around the world. Even before that, however, the idea of building something to help animals get around an obstruction had been around.
A woman needs a man like a fish needs a… ladder?
Dams and other obstructions in rivers were blocking fish from their natural migrations, so the idea of a fish ladder was used. As the name implies, it creates a series of ladder-like steps that allow fish to move up and down from one step to another and bypass whatever’s blocking their way.
And that is the essence of a wildlife bridge: to allow animals to naturally get around the obstacles we create. Roads are the most common obstacle, but even our cities themselves greatly impact the ability of some creatures to move around.
Depending upon the types of animals that need to use them, the shape and style of the bridge can vary widely.
There are overpasses and viaducts, underpasses, amphibian tunnels, canopy bridges
In addition to the fish ladder (of which there are many styles) there are overpasses and viaducts, underpasses, amphibian tunnels, canopy bridges suited for monkeys and squirrels, culverts for small mammals, and green roofs to give butterflies and birds respite when flying over urban areas.
A recent documentary called “Cascade Crossroads” follows the building of a series of animal crossings in Washington, USA, along the main Interstate highway cutting across the State. It focuses on a small area near Seattle which sees a lot of daily traffic, both human and animal.
The busy road slices through dense natural habitats inhabited by a wide array of creatures both big and small.
It’s really kind of shocking how many roads lead to exactly the same thing
These animals naturally move through the forests as they hunt for food and mates, and generally live their lives. It’s really kind of shocking how many roads lead to exactly the same thing.
After all, we tend to build busy highways through areas where we don’t have to move people’s houses out of the way. Which doesn’t mean that the areas aren’t inhabited, they’re just not inhabited by humans.