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Making Highway 93 Safer for Animals and People

Y2Y and Parks Canada are looking to use driver-based GPS units to track wildlife hot spots along Highway 93, identifying species that make it (or don't make it) across the road.

If you’ve ever driven Highway 93 South through Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, you know it can feel like playing a live video game – dodging deer and other animals as they launch themselves onto the road.

An average of 5,000 vehicles travel this stretch of highway between Banff’s Castle junction and Radium Hot Springs on a typical summer’s day and some 50 large animals are killed annually*.

When Y2Y was approached by Parks Canada to purchase GPS units that would be used to identify wildlife hot spots along the highway, we jumped at the idea. The units allow drivers to record where and what species of wildlife successfully or unsuccessfully crossed the road.

Photo credit: Roy Toft

“Highway 93 South is an area of concern for Y2Y,” says Y2Y Program Director Wendy Francis. “It is critical that wildlife can move safely throughout the national parks and the amount of traffic on this highway can keep populations living on either side of the road separate from one another.”

“We saw this as an opportunity to help regain connectivity between populations in the park and reduce hazards for drivers,” she added.

GPS units were installed in ore trucks that traveled the highway. Parks Canada Resource Conservation staff also used the one-touch system to record their observations.

The data revealed noteworthy information, including spotting many elusive live animals such as cougars, lynx, bighorn sheep (the northern population about which Parks has little information), mountain goat in an area where they are not normally found, and more.

GPS tracking along Highway 93 south. Image courtesy of Parks Canada

The data also confirmed that deer – mainly white-tailed deer – make up approximately 70% of the road-kill in Kootenay.

This information supported earlier data used by Parks Canada to select the Dolly Varden area for the installation of 4.7 km of fencing and three wildlife underpasses. It will also be used in combination with existing information to set the sites of future projects pending funding approval. Click to see the time-lapsed video of the construction.

First phase of fencing and wildlife underpasses was completed this fall. Courtesy of Parks Canada

Other strategies will also be implemented including seasonal speed advisories, marking short-term animal activity areas on the highway, and working with the RCMP to focus speed limit enforcement in road-kill hot spots.

Photo credit: Karsten Heuer
Parks Canada hopes to deploy these GPS units again this winter to continue tracking wildlife along the highway. They also wish to expand the program and commence GPS tracking along the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park.

We hope that this image will soon be a thing of the past.

*This excludes wildlife dying out of view from the highway; those that are removed by scavengers before Parks Canada staff can record them; and orphaned animals that die when their mothers are killed.

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