Did you know that around $8 billion is spent each year covering expenses from cars that crash into animals while they are trying to cross a road? In Europe hundreds of overpasses have been built over the past 50 years to prevent these collisions. The idea of overpasses is slowly moving all over the world and is having profound effects on preventing collision and connecting land that was separated by an almost impenetrable barrier, roads. While we were in Missoula visiting my mom’s cousin Marcel the biologist, we learned about one of Marcel’s recent projects building one wildlife overpass and multiple underpasses in the Flat Head Native American Reservation. The U.S Government wanted to expand the road going through the reservation, so the Native Americans required the government to build crossings for wildlife and have wildlife fencing along the road. For over ten years the Native Americans fought to have the U.S. Government build the crossings, and finally the government agreed.
When we went up to Glacier National Park with Marcel we happened to be passing through the Flat Head Native American Reservation and he showed us the overpass he had consulted on. We got to walk up to the fencing and see how animals are funneled into the over and underpasses. The overpass is a really practical solution that is a simple wildlife bridge that goes up and over the road. The scientist are seeing lots of positive results and tons of animals are using it and also teaching their young how to use the overpass too. Similarly the underpasses are also successful with lots of animals using them and teaching their young. The reason why the scientists put in both over and underpasses is that different animals have a preference for their crossing. For example, grizzly bears like the open overpasses, whereas bobcats like the shaded, covered underpasses. We also saw something we never heard of called an animal jump, which is a mound that has a ledge on the side facing the forest. If an animal somehow gets stuck on the road there is a ramp so the animals can get back to the forest, but there is also a ledge facing the forest so animas can not get out. These are some really great ideas that have been implemented because they connect forests that have been scarred by this previously impassible road, and they prevent the destruction that road kill causes to animals and humans.