Welcome to Go Go Go’s newest venture, a photographic explainer of unfamiliar things seen while traveling.
Without further ado, here is today’s photo:
What is it? Glad you asked.
This is an animal overpass in Banff National Park.
What happens when a transcontinental highway is built right through a wilderness area, where wild animals migrate and look for food, or just wander about, doing their wild animal thing? Roadkill. And a lot of it.
And not your usual roadkill of squirrels, raccoons, or skunks. In places like Banff, it’s often bears, elk, and cougars.
The “ecopassages” help animals maintain their usual migratory paths or daily feeding routines without the danger of wandering across several lanes of traffic. The ecopassage in this photo crosses the Trans-Canada Highway, and the entire length of the highway is bordered by very high fences that make it possible to cross the highway only by way of the overpass.
According to National Geographic, the animal overpasses in Banff are among the most successful in North America, leading to a 96% decrease in the deaths of elk and other hoofed animals. Ninety-six percent!
Banff is the first park I’ve seen with such an impressive amount of infrastructure designed for the protection of wildlife. Banff also has the widest, fastest-moving, busiest road I’ve ever seen in a national park. Most park roads are two lanes through forested areas or following the winding curves of mountainsides. Animal overpasses or tunnels under the roads aren’t always possible in the parks, so it’s up to drivers to go slow and watch for wildlife.
Even in Banff, once you’re off the Trans-Canada Highway, the fences and overpasses largely disappear, and in our short time there we witnessed a car totaled by a caribou that probably bounded out into the road leaving the driver little time to react.
Hitting a wild animal has got to be the worst feeling in the world. I hope I never know that feeling. And finding yourself stranded miles from anything and likely without cell service because your car is trashed is no way to spend a vacation. So please take care, obey the speed limits, and be alert.