Can humans and large wildlife coexist on the same area?
British Columbia is home to a great deal of wildlife. One does not have to travel far on British Columbia’s roadways to notice. During the past year I have had the privilege of traveling many of these highways and have enjoyed a front row seat to observing some of the areas large mammals, many of which from the seat of my vehicle. I have enjoyed these encounters and often have had my camera in the car with me to be able to record the sightings. Most Canadians I have met are proud of having “the wild” so close and speak highly of initiatives to support wildlife and reduce the collective human footprint on nature. There comes a point though, when people and wildlife living in close proximity to each other is not so fun. Last spring I had such an experience while driving Highway 5 just south of Merrit. While I was travelling upwards of 120 km/h, a Mule Deer was attempting to travel east and west while I was travelling north and south. The result is below.
The sad reality is that many animals are attracted to the roadsides because that is where the lush grass is. Many of the province’s large animals feed on grass and the most abundance of this is often directly beside the road in the areas that have been made flat by machinery. This is not new information. The answer, on the part of the humans, is often to build wildlife fences beside the major areas where wild animals often cross. Corridors are created or left in their original state as much as possible to limit collisions with vehicles. These fences direct wildlife to under or overpasses where safe crossings can be made. Western Canada is on the forefront of this type of research in the world.
The area where I struck and killed the deer last Spring was one of the areas without such fences. There are fences there for cattle but deer can easily jump over and cross the highway. I am happy to report that this area of the Coquihalla Highway is now getting new wildlife fences on both sides. While driving between Kamloops and my hometown quite frequently as of late, I can see the progress happening and it’s great to see.
A few days ago I photographed this Moose near Coquihalla Lakes. Thanks to the fences, it was being directed towards an underpass to get to the other side. The large trucks behind it are doing 120-130 km/h. No one wins if the Moose is able to saunter across the 4 lanes or roadway. Can you imagine what a medium sized vehicle would look like after colliding with a Moose at high speed?
For a cool youtube clip showing the usefulness of wildlife fences and under/over passes in another part of British Columbia, click here.