Wildlife is causing collisions throughout the United States because there’s no way to cross highways.
This presents dangers to drivers and wildlife alike. The U.S. needs to implement more wildlife crossings to reduce accidents and prevent unnecessary deaths.
Protect the Animals
Overpasses, underground tunnels and passageways give animals safe places to cross highways without risking their lives or interrupting traffic flow. American drivers hit 1-2 million animals annually, and 30,000 people are usually injured from these collisions. Around 200 people don’t survive each year, and the cost of these accidents is about $8 billion.
Building more places for animals to cross safely will save humans’ lives. Reconnecting the fragmented habitat of animals that have followed the same land routes for years is another reason there should be more wildlife crossings in America.
Highways and fences can be destructive to wildlife and their migration patterns. These animals are trying to find shelter and resources as they have for millennia. How the U.S. has managed to coincide with them throughout the years without them going extinct is baffling. The crossings have been few and far between in the past. Wildlife has persevered, but their numbers are dwindling.
Building wildlife crossings helps to protect animals and conserve biodiversity. Providing ways for these creatures to cross roads safely strengthens their habitats. The natural landscape is kept intact, and they don’t have to adapt much. The animals are less likely to jump fences and dart across highways when they have safe passage to get across roads.
In Wyoming, animals travel 150 miles between the Upper Green River Basin and Grand Teton National Park. This path that funnels through Trappers’ Point and crosses U.S. 191 became the first federally designated wildlife crossing in 2008. Before this crossing was in place, around 140 animals were hit by vehicles every year on this road.
Two animal overpasses and six underpasses now exist along this 12-mile stretch. The two overpasses are concrete arched bridges that are 6.5 miles apart, 40 feet tall and 150 feet wide. This project at Trappers’ Point has decreased vehicular accidents by about 80%.
A lane built for trucks in Utah saw collisions with moose, deer and elk. Officials decided to make a bridge for them to cross with what resources they had available. The wildlife crossing proved highly successful, although it’s very narrow and long. Trail cameras tracked bears, mountain lions, moose, porcupines and more creatures using this pathway daily.
Human safety is the main objective for wildlife crossings, but animals are increasingly being saved as well. With climate change and environmental crises like wildfires erupting, wildlife needs to be able to find safe harbor so they don’t go extinct. There are over 1,000 wildlife crossings in the U.S., but only 10-20 are overpasses.
Tunnels, underpasses and overpasses provide safe passage for wildlife of all shapes and sizes. There are more than 50 designated wildlife crossings in Southwest Florida alone. They were designed to protect panthers and other endangered species, but alligators and baby bears also use them.
Smaller animals don’t get as much attention as the larger ones, but they are also in danger from vehicular collisions. Vermont is taking the initiative and planning a snake underpass for an area already scheduled for maintenance. It’s an opportune time to make improvements because funding is already allocated for the project.
Funding for More
Wildlife that needs assistance safely crossing highways without harming people might be getting the help they need. Herds of elk and mule deer can starve when busy streets prevent them from migrating. Roadkill rates are at an all-time high. Mountain lions in California have fallen into an extinction vortex since crossing roads safely has prevented them from mating.
Wildlife crossings have benefits across the board. However, their price tag hinders faster adoption. Tunnels for turtles can cost millions of dollars. Although they are constructive for humans and wildlife, conservative politicians see crossings for animals as a governmental waste of money.
However, President Biden is expected to sign a $1.2 trillion bill that the House passed with $350 million in funds for bridges, tunnels and fences to assist animal conservation. These funds will be the most considerable sum of money ever invested in wildlife crossings in U.S. history.
Wildlife crossings grant safe passage to furry friends and slimy ones alike. Having funds to build more of these passages is only the beginning. Accidents caused by animals just trying to get across highways will decrease with more tunnels and passageways for them to utilize. That improves safety for everyone and lets more creatures share the road.