White-tailed deer are the most commonly hit animal in Kootenay National Park.

Overpass planned for Kootenay National Park

Parks Canada has secured funding to install a wildlife crossing and fencing within Kootenay National Park.

Parks Canada has secured funding to install a wildlife crossing and fencing within Kootenay National Park (KNP) and Parks Canada Wildlife Crossing Project Manager Trevor Kinley said the project is likely to begin sometime next year.

“It will not address the problem in its entirety but it will help,” Kinley said. “The intent is, over the longterm, to see more of that work in the KNP.”

So far in 2012, there have been 40 documented cases of medium to large sized animals hit or killed by vehicles in KNP. Last year, there were 57 and over the last decade, the average has been 52 with the most commonly hit animal being white-tailed deer, which make up about 60 per cent of all collisions. Moose are the next most commonly hit animal, with about seven moose collisions a year typically. Also documented over the last ten years are mule deer, black bears, coyotes, elk, big horn sheep, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, coyotes, red foxes, and even a wolverine, hit just this year.

But the average only includes animals reported or found by staff, not those that wander off and die after being hit; nor does it include the young that inevitably die after the mother is killed.

“We know the actual number hit or killed is considerably higher,” said Kinley.

In an effort to reduce the number of collisions, Parks staff erect temporary signage in areas where there is a lot of roadside animal activity and the RCMP have been enforcing speed limits in high road-kill locations.

But though there are some hot spots, such at the Kootenay Valley for white-tailed deer, the collisions tend to be spread out throughout the park so Kinley’s message for drivers is to stay vigilant at all times when driving through the park, keep to the speed limit or below, and keep aware that an animal can appear at any point along the highway.

“Just remember that animals don’t react in a predictable way necessarily,” he said. “Often they will jump in front of you when clearly it’s the more dangerous thing to do; they don’t react the way a human would react to passing traffic.

“It’s very important if you do see animals on the roadside to slow right down and make sure they’re not going to leap out in front of you.”

Moose in particular are hard to see despite their enormous size as they are typically on the road in poor light — dawn, dusk and overnight.

“They’re very dark, their eyes don’t shine very much and so they really can be hard to see until people are almost up to them,” Kinley said.

Although the details of the wildlife crossing and fencing are still being worked out, the crossing will likely be located north of the Dolly Varden day use area and take the shape of a large underpass measuring seven metres wide and four metres tall, similar to what’s commonly used in Banff National Park, which in addition to six visible wildlife overpasses, boasts 38 underpasses due to the large volume of traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway.