Wildlife Bridge Designs Released

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Vehicles can be the biggest predators of deer, elk, bears, and other wildlife. Engineers have been looking into new ways to design overpasses or "wildlife bridges" that allow wildlife to cross from one side of a major highway to the other. The benefits to wildlife are clear, but the bridges also cut down on the accidental death, injuries, and property damages that result from vehicle/wildlife collisions.

The Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University invited designers from around the world to come up with novel designs to span across Interstate 70 near Vail, Colorado. The Wall Street Journal has a write up about the new designs and their costs.

Landscape architect Robert Rock takes pride in talking to his clients to understand just how they'll be using the green spaces he designs. In his most recent assignment, however, he hit a roadblock. "You can't ask elk what they'd like for dinner," Mr. Rock said ruefully.

While awesome in scale, these bridges have awesome price tags that soar to $12 million dollars. It looks like Idaho is already creating cheaper underpasses now to the tune of $800,000.


hawkeye270's picture

One of the worst animal

One of the worst animal rights organizations is Defenders of Wildlife. The sad thing is that the spokesman for them actually made a little bit of sense at the end of the article. In most of these cases it would have been a lot easier to just plan the location of these roads better in the first place. Hopefully proper planning will take place for road building projects in the future. It should be said however that in some cases, there is only one practical route to put a road. One of the most frustrating things about Rocky Mountain National Park is the fact that there is a federal highway blocking the mummy range big horn sheep herd from thier main mineral lick. It takes a lot of man power (thanks to the parks great volunteer base) to keep these critters from getting hit as they cross the road in order to visit the mineral lick to get the minerals that they require. There has been a lot of talk about putting in a wildlife pass or relocating the road but the cost of either option is pretty darn steep. If only proper planning had been used in the first place then there wouldn't be a problem.

CVC's picture

They were building lots of

They were building lots of overpasses for animals in Canada when I was there in October.  A lot of their highway was fenced to prevent animals from entering the highway with one way doors to let the errant ones get back in.  They invested heavily to protect the wildlife from cars and vice versa.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

I hadn't really thought about

I hadn't really thought about it that way Jim.  Very interesting topic.

I can see the hunters being regulated, because of the proximity to the road, and the laws regarding discharging a weapon near the road. 

However, last time I checked, the predators that you mentioned likely will not follow the "no hunting" regulation. lol

I like the look of the design, and it's a cool concept.  I have seen similar things in other placed, but usually they are tunnels under the road, not bridges.  It would be interesting to see these when completed.

jim boyd's picture

Over or underpass, I think it

Over or underpass, I think it is a superior idea and I applaud every state that does it.

You would certainly have to limit hunting in these areas - talk about a deer or elk funnel, this is it!

While rut crazed bucks would certainly still jump the fences (heck, can an elk jump a fence like a deer can? - probably not, I would assume - I guess a rut crazed elk would just tear the fence down and casually stroll through it!) and create havoc on the roadways, I wonder if half the time when they do this they are not following a receptive doe anyway?

If the does were using the over or underpasses, this might limit some of them all rushing about on the Interstate highways.

You would still some trolling bucks on the highway - and probably still some does and cows who just have not figured it out yet (and may never) but this looks like a viable way to reduce animal / auto collisions.

I do wonder how the other hunters - the mountain lions and wolves - might address these areas?

Could it be possible that they could figure this funnel out and use it to their predatory advantage?

I would think it would be possible...

These areas could even propagate the species... a buck that was normally too shy (say in the spring and summer) to cross the Interstate - might branch out and use these crossing paths and move to new ground - helping to spread the gene pool, so to speak.

It might even make it easier for herds to move from one feeding ground to another, thereby helping them survive a harsh winter.

The cost seems steep - I wonder if the insurance industries would help support some of the budgetary concerns for these crossings?

When you consider under or overpasses and weigh them against each other, I would think that the deer and elk would likely be more comfortable going under than over - they do love to sneak, after all... although if the overpass were planted in something that created a dense cover and a canopy - maybe they would use either equally as well.

When you get to the cost differences they have spelled out, you have to know that the underpasses will have a great advantage - although I can see some of these overpasses created as a "show piece" for a state....

Great article!



GooseHunter Jr's picture

Those are some crazy looking

Those are some crazy looking bridges.  They would look really cool while driving up the I70 coridor.  I really cant see too many states getting into these bridges considering the price tag.