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Report: Safe Passages for Wildlife in the Southern Canadian Rockies 2022-23 Final Report COL-F23-W-3733

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Highway 3 in southeast British Columbia is an obstacle for wildlife connectivity and a hotspot of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Southeast BC is home to one of the largest assemblages of large mammal species in North America. However, the highway fracture zone adversely affects these species at local and continental scales (Canada/USA), leading to numerous conservation challenges. These challenges include fragmenting crucial habitats and populations, and causing direct mortality due to collisions.

Author:  Emily Chow and Dr. Clayton Lamb

Old Reference Number:  COL-F23-W-3733

Old Reference System:  FWCP - Fish Wildlife Compensation Program Columbia

Date Published:  Mar 2023

Report ID:  62197

Audience:  Government and Public

Many species impacted by the highway, such as grizzly bears, wolverines, bighorn sheep, American badgers, elk, and mule deer, are of local conservation concern and hold high cultural values. More than a decade of research has contributed to our knowledge and proposed solutions to mitigate the impacts of Highway 3 on human and wildlife safety. Here we report on a project to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and promote safe connectivity through exclusion fencing and wildlife crossing structures. The Reconnecting the Rockies: BC project proposes to fence 27 km of Highway 3 from Olsen Crossing east of Hosmer to the BC-Alberta border. On average, 41 roadkill are reported in this stretch each year, and this number may be as high as 124 after accounting for unreported roadkill. These collisions cost society at least 1.6 million per year, but the cost could be as high as 4.8 million. Similar mitigation projects in neighboring jurisdictions (AB, MT, WA, CO, etc.) have successfully reduced collisions with wildlife by >80%. Guided by an abundance of past research and stakeholder engagement to identify key areas and best approaches, we broke ground on the project in 2020. We began retrofitting existing bridges to serve as underpasses, preparing the ground work for a large wildlife overpass, and future fencing. Between in 2020-2022 we constructed 4 km of wildlife exclusion fencing (2 highway kms) and retrofitted 4 underpasses. The effectiveness monitoring program has had continued success with over 35 cameras deployed with nearly a million photos classified, and ongoing grizzly bear collaring. Early results show wildlife are readily using the underpasses adjacent to the fenced sections. Because the fence was installed in Nov 2022 it is too early to assess effectiveness at reducing collisions, but that will be a priority in future years and as more fencing is installed. We provide a summary of project progress, data collected to date, and recommendations to ensure project effectiveness. This project aligns with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Programs Columbia Upland and Dryland Action Plan, focusing on habitat-based actions with the priority action of improvement of connectivity habitats (COLUPD.ECO.HB.13.01 Improvement of connectivity habitats-P1) habitats as the work we are doing directly increases safe connectivity across a major highway and reduces mortality caused by vehicle collisions

Report Type
  Terrestrial Information
  Mammals - Badger: Taxidea taxus
  Mammals - Bighorn Sheep: Ovis canadensis
  Mammals - Elk: Cervus elaphus
  Mammals - Grizzly Bear: Ursus arctos
  Mammals - Mule Deer: Odocoileus hemionus
  Region - Kootenay
  Terrestrial Information - Habitat Monitoring

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