People use corridors all the time – like in your school! Corridors are the pathways you take to move around your school in order to get to class, have lunch in the cafeteria, get a drink of water or go outside to play at recess.
Animals use corridors too! An example of a wildlife corridor would be a valley running through two mountains – it’s easier for animals to walk through the valley than to climb up and over the mountain. Animals move between habitats through these corridors in order to find food, water, shelter from the weather and a safe place to raise their young.
But, what happens when these corridors get divided up by things like a highway? It makes these spots for animal crossings really dangerous. In fact, here in Canada, between four and eight large animals are struck by cars every hour! To help animals move around more safely, scientists at Parks Canada are studying the movements of animals through corridors, and coming up with creative solutions to make these crossings safer.
Building Wildlife Crossings
Parks Canada is helping animals get around their habitat more safely by building human-made crossing corridors to keep wildlife away from dangers like busy highways. Building an animal crossing is tricky, since not all animals like to use the same type. Some animals prefer overpasses that allow them to walk over the road, while other animals like underpasses, which are tunnels that go under the road.
See who’s been using the wildlife crossings!
Many species also take a long time to feel comfortable using the human-made crossings. It can take up to five years before animals like grizzly bears and wolves will feel secure enough to use a new crossing. Other animals are less shy about them; elk, for example, were the first species in Banff National Park to use a new crossing, even heading across it while it was still under construction! Scientists at Parks Canada are researching how species interact with these crossings and learning what it takes to build ones that animals will want to use. Today, there are 55 crossing structures for animals in Canada’s national parks. These human-made corridors help a wide range of species, from big migrating animals, like deer, to smaller ones like turtles, snakes and frogs.
Spying on the Animals
Scientists at Parks Canada aren’t just learning about how to build the best wildlife crossing, they are also collecting a lot of important information about the animals that use them. Parks Canada keeps track of which species use the corridors, counting the size of the population, their age and sex, and even how many animals approach a crossing but don’t use it. One of the ways scientists monitor the wildlife crossings is by setting up camera traps, which capture footage of animals near the human-made corridors.
Watch videos of wildlife crossings!
When some of the crossings were first built, barbed wire was strung across them to allow researchers to collect hair samples without harming the animals. Researchers then took the hair to analyze the DNA, which gave them information about the animal, such as the species, sex and age. Parks Canada researchers regularly visited the crossings to monitor them, collect hair samples, check on the camera traps and look for tracks on the ground. After researchers identified the tracks in the area, they raked the ground to leave a good surface to collect the tracks of the next animal visitor to the corridor.
Wildlife Corridor Success
Thanks to the hard work of Parks Canada researchers, more animals are able to move around their habitat safely. Adding fences on highways and building crossings in mountain national parks has reduced the collisions between animals and cars by more than 80%! Today, Parks Canada is continuing to research wildlife corridors to make it easier and safer for animals to move around their habitat.
To find out more about Parks Canada and to plan your visit to one of Canada’s national parks, visit www.parkscanada.gc.ca.