You Shall Pass
Most of us are well familiar with overpasses, those three-dimensional intersections of highways and byways. These structures allow roads to cross safely without those pesky traffic lights, stop signs, or roundabouts.
Utilizing vertical space for road travel is good for both safety and speed. For humans, at least.
If you spend a lot of time driving on highways, you know these gargantuan expanses of concrete are not safe for wildlife, no matter how many safety measures are in place for people. Roadkill is a constant companion on the open road.
It’s as if Gandalf himself stands on the side of the road and tells all the critters they shall not pass.
Obviously, wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) are deadly for the animals, but they are dangerous for humans, too. In the United States, approximately 200 people die each year from striking animals with automobiles. In areas home to large fauna, such as moose or elk, the problem can be particularly nasty.
According to the Department of Transportation, the annual cost associated with WVCs is over $8 billion.
It’s a costly and deadly interaction. Since vehicle traffic shan’t be extinct anytime soon, we have developed a few systems to lessen the collisions. We’re all familiar with a wide variety of animal crossing signs:
Some areas have developed intricate technologies to attempt solutions. Laser and radar systems line some highways, which can alert drivers to the presence of large animals. These systems can be effective, but they are not cheap and they require potential upkeep.
Parts of the United States and Canada are finally catching up to Europe on a cheaper, low-tech, elegant fix: wildlife under and overpasses!
The overpass above might, at first glance, seem a traditional example for car traffic, but it’s actually designed for our furry friends to use.
This framework seems a no-brainer. We save the lives of humans and animals alike, save money, and disrupt the natural flow of nature far less than forcing animals to run the gauntlet. Some, like the structure above, go over highways; some are designed to travel under roads. Localities can be creative when it comes to the specific wildlife in their areas.
From above, these bridges look how you probably imagine them to look:
Of course, not just the big animals benefit from these types of structures.
On Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, residents constructed an overpass to help with migrating crabs!
Hopefully, these overpasses will continue to gain in popularity. Many people like to present environmental solutions to be at odds with economic development or human interests. These wildlife crossings are a perfect example of a way to improve the lives of animals and humans. The animals shall pass!
No peek at this subject would be complete without some video of the bridges in action. Check out the clips below for some cute critters and natural solutions in motion.
Further Reading and Exploration
Wildlife Crossings Project – Official Website
Animals Are Using Utah’s Largest Wildlife Overpass Earlier Than Expected – Smithsonian Magazine
How wildlife bridges over highways make animals—and people—safer – National Geographic