A recent University of Waterloo study published in The Journal of Environmental Planning and Management suggests many wildlife-vehicular accidents are preventable if roads are built with improved wildlife-management strategies in mind.
Associate Professor Michael Drescher said simple solutions such as better wildlife roadway crossing signs, fencing, wildlife detection systems, and improved wildlife roadway crossings. These could contribute to fewer collisions, thus saving the lives of people and wildlife, as well as considerable financial and emotional burdens.
The study, which focused on southern Ontario, estimates that “5% to 10% of car insurance premium costs can be attributed to wildlife collision claims.”
Drescher said a benefit would be realized if agencies worked together proactively.
One example of this approach is Ontario’s first “eco-passage” overpass in 2012 south of Sudbury. It was a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and the then Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
MTO Media Advisor Kristin Franks said many similar projects are underway. Part of the Highway 69 expansion has two large wildlife underpasses; wildlife passages have been created under the Lovering Creek and Murdock River bridges; and 17 Species at Risk (SAR) crossings have been erected under the highway, as well as sections of exclusion fencing.
She added that current construction on Highway 69 involves 15 kilometres of ungulate and reptile fencing, four large wildlife underpasses, one joint-use crossing, and seven SAR crossings.
On Highway 11, between North Bay and Sundridge, there are three sections of wildlife-exclusion fencing, one large wildlife underpass, and a joint-use crossing.
In the planning stages are 70 SAR crossings, 10 large wildlife underpasses, two joint-use crossings, wildlife passages, and “end-to-end fencing”.
According to Drescher, similar structures in the Banff, Alberta area have decreased wildlife mortality by 80%.
Franks said there has been a 6.5% decrease in the number of wildlife collisions from 2005 to 2014. Even so, more than 13,000 highway collisions in Ontario involve wildlife annually, with an estimated cost of approximately $1 billion, including driver injuries and fatalities.