Wild animals love British Columbia. Of course they do – it’s varied terrain makes it a haven for beasts and creatures of all shapes and sizes. Both small and large species, from the gigantic moose to the night-crawling raccoon, pose potential hazards for drivers, and vise versa. A large animal can make a serious impact, while a smaller animal can startle a driver into swerving and losing control of their vehicle.
It’s our job to prevent animals and drivers from crossing paths, and the wildlife overpass is just one of the ways we do this.
Along with wildlife underpasses, which we wrote about in a previous post, overpasses give wildlife safe passage to important seasonal habitats. Healthy wildlife populations flourish when ecosystems remain connected, and wildlife overpasses help achieve that. Think of them as “wildlife freeways,” keeping animals moving while preventing collisions with vehicles.
Where to put them?
Our wildlife experts are instrumental in determining overpass locations. They work closely with bridge engineers on the design of the structures, and with geotechnical engineers on the final location. Overpasses are built after extensive wildlife habitat surveys, wildlife tracking surveys, wildlife population surveys, and analysis of wildlife accident locations using the ministry’s WARS data.
Part of a bigger wildlife transportation network
Wildlife overpasses are a big part of the wildlife exclusion systems we use to protect motorists and wildlife on BC highways. Other parts of exclusion systems include:
- Exclusion fencing
- One-way gates
- Jump outs (basically, raised ramps that allow animals who find themselves on the wrong side of the fence to jump out to the protected side)
- Ungulate guards
Watch this cool time lapse video of snow load monitoring, captured on the Coquihalla during the winter of 2021.
Snow load monitoring is part of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Wildlife Exclusion System Improvement Program and a key part of our efforts to improve wildlife exclusion system design and performance. Winter conditions on the Coquihalla are some of the most challenging in the world and our ministry engineers have worked with BC material suppliers to design wildlife exclusion fencing that can withstand the full wrath of Mother Nature during her winter season. The ministry’s maintenance contractors maintain the wildlife exclusion fencing every spring.
We estimate that a well-designed, well-constructed and well-maintained wildlife exclusion system can reduce the potential for wildlife collisions by more than 90 per cent. That’s good news, whether you travel on four wheels or four legs.
Have a question about wildlife overpasses that we didn’t answer? Let us know in the comments section below.