Aiming to make prairie roads safer for wildlife and people
By Tim Kalinowski
Wildlife-related vehicle collisions account for over 54 per cent of rural accidents. In 2008, according to Alberta Transportation, there was approximately $240-million in damages related to these kinds of collisions, and nine people lost their lives.
The odds are if you live in a rural area in Alberta or Saskatchewan, you know someone who has been killed or badly injured as a result of a vehicle collision with wildlife.
Pronghorn Xing (Crossing) is seeking to better the odds for avoiding wildlife on roadways for both animals and human drivers alike.
“Pronghorns and other wildlife are being hit when crossing the highway,” says Megan Jensen of Pronghorn Xing. “We are trying to figure out where the major seasonal pinch points are. This is where you have most of your road kills.
“We did connectivity modelling to try to find out where these areas were with a mapping system, and now were are trying to ground truth that. We are encouraging everyone to use our app. when they are coming into to town, or use our online mapping system, so they can help us figure out where these pinch points are.”
By creating this citizen science project, Pronghorn Xing is hoping to foster awareness and collect good data which will be presented to the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan so those bodies can take action to bring in different types of mitigation techniques like enhanced use of signage or animal bypass routes to help wildlife cross roadways safely.
“We want to try to reduce wildlife/vehicle collisions, and create safe passageways across the highways,” states Jensen. “We have an online mapping system. If you see dead animals on the road, or animals running adjacent to the road, just note their location and report in when safe to do so.
“If you are the passenger in a vehicle, you can start our Pronghorn Xing app, which can be downloaded through iTunes or Google Play. It’s really simple.”
While saving human lives is a major benefit of such initiatives, Pronghorn Xing it is equally about local people doing their part to help protect and conserve important native species like the pronghorns, which are particularly vulnerable near roadways.
This is why the pronghorn has become the symbol of this overall effort, explains Jensen.
“Because the current fragmentation of the land creates barriers for pronghorns, it can be difficult for their survival,” she emphasizes. “If you have a fence blocking the way, they can’t jump over the fence. So they need to go under the fence, and that can be problematic for them.
“If they scratch their backs on a barbed wire fence they can die of hypothermia or from infection. They spend a long time thinking about that, and it takes them quite a while to cross a highway. They can get trapped that way, and can be subject to winter kill.
“We know all wildlife will benefit from these mitigation strategies, but our main focus is finding out how to get the pronghorns through their seasonal migrations with more safety. And make the roads, in the end, safer for people as well.”
For more information on the Pronghorn Xing project visit their website at www.pronghornxing.org.