Banff Wildlife Crossings Project: Maintaining ecological connectivity across transportation corridors in mountain landscapes

Abstract: The 24 wildlife crossing structures of the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park are a model of worldwide importance. It is the first large-scale complex of highway mitigation of its kind in North America and is a perfect natural laboratory for understanding the conservation value of highway overpasses and underpasses for a variety of wildlife species. More than 11 years of systematic monitoring of the crossings has shown that 11 species of large mammals—including grizzly bear, mountain lion, moose, elk and bighorn sheep—have used Banff’s crossing structures more than 95,000 times in 2007. Research suggests there is a learning curve and that animals need time to locate the wildlife crossings and feel secure using them before doing so regularly. For instance, grizzly bear use has increased from just seven crossings in 1996 to more than 100 crossings in 2006. Long-term monitoring has demonstrated that traffic-related mortality of all large mammals in this stretch of the TCH has been reduced by more than 80 percent, making it an important tool for maintaining wildlife populations and providing for motorist safety. This project will look specifically at grizzly and black bear use of the crossings by track-pad monitoring and DNA analysis to quantify the numbers and genetic relatedness of individuals using the structures; how the wildlife crossing structures minimize inbreeding and promote the persistence of bear populations in the area; providing recommendations for long-term monitoring of wildlife crossings future mitigation efforts. Importantly, the results of the monitoring, research and analysis will be conveyed to the public through a documentary film on road ecology for broadcast on public television, compilation of a series of four 5-minute podcasts hosted on Montana State University’s TerraPod website, and through publications and presentations at local, national and international conferences.

Sponsoring Organization: USDOT/Research and Innovative Technologies Administration, Office of Research, Development, & Technology

Completion Date: 9/30/2012

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