December 23rd, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 50
Highway 3 to get wildlife fencing
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Herald contributor photo
Pass Herald Reporter
The roads could be safer next year thanks to an initiative to protect both humans and sheep.

In the spring of 2016, Alberta Transportation plans to begin construction of about 1.5 kilometres of wildlife fencing along both sides of Highway 3.

The fencing will extend east and west of the existing Emerald Lake vehicle overpass and will funnel wildlife, specifically bighorn sheep, to cross back and forth under the highway.

Mitigation projects of this kind are usually found inside national parks or on major highway improvement projects but the location has seen a high number of vehicle and wildlife collisions.

“A significant number of bighorn sheep are killed in wildlife vehicle collisions each year at the Emerald Lake location,” said Rob Schaufele, director of Road Watch in the Pass. “Motorist visibility is quite poor by Emerald Lake, as wildlife tend to quickly come up or down the slopes on either side of the highway and cross the roadway. Sheep also like to hang out along the road to eat fresh vegetation and lick salt along the shoulders.”

Because they often travel in herds, sometimes a number of bighorn can be killed in a single collision. In the fall of 2013, about 10 to 12 sheep were killed in collisions within a few weeks. They accounted for about 10 per cent of the local bighorn population, said Schaufele.
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Road Watch has been using citizen-collected data to understand where wildlife is hit by vehicles crossing Highway 3. For about 10 years, Road Watch volunteers have been recording where they’ve seen animals alongside, crossing, or on the highway. Over 5,000 sightings have been recorded.

The data, along with information from Fish and Wildlife and Volker Stevin, has been used to map out important wildlife corridors, the number of animals killed each year and species involved in collisions.
“This data was very important for illustrating the need for highway mitigation to reduce collisions through the Crowsnest Pass and a significant factor in Alberta Transportation’s decision to move forward with the fencing project,” said Schaufele.

Schaufele also works as the project coordinator for Collision Count, another citizen run project designed by the Miistakis Institute. Collision Count has a group of volunteers who hike regular routes looking for animal carcasses. The volunteers record data on the numbers of animals that are hit by vehicles but wander away from the roadway and die elsewhere.

“The data will show that there are actually a lot more animals killed from vehicle collisions than we think,” said Schaufele. “Most existing mortality records only account for animals that were killed on the road, not wildlife that were injured and died away from the highway.”
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The data could be used to measure the effectiveness of the different mitigation projects, he said.

The Emerald Lake Fencing Project is the first stage of Alberta Transportation’s larger highway mitigation project. The next spot along Highway 3 where there are significant numbers of collisions is east of the Pass at the Rock Creek corridor.

“Most residents have seen carcasses lining the roadway there,” said Schaufele.

The area is an important north/south travel corridor for everything from grizzly bears to moose, said Schaufele. The future mitigation plans for Rock Creek involve constructing a wildlife underpass with directional fencing to funnel animals to cross under the highway.
December 23rd ~ Vol. 85 No. 50
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