Helping moose across the highway

Barb Sweet
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Expert says wildlife paths/fencing saves lives

An illustration of the landscaped top of an overpass, designed for wildlife crossings. The design by HNTB Engineering with Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, New York, won an international competition. — Submitted photo

A group lobbying for safer highways says the provincial and federal governments should pay heed to results of an international design competition for highway wildlife crossings.

“It would be a win-win situation,” said Eugene Nippard, who heads the Save our People Action Committee, which is concerned about the ballooning number of moose-vehicle accidents on provincial  highways.

ARC: The International Wildlife Crossing Structure Design Competition sought entries for a design to combat the problem of accidents involving black bears, cougars, bobcats, lynx, coyote, elk, deer and marten in Vail, Colo. But the competition was also aimed at solving ever-growing wildlife-vehicle accidents across the U.S. and Canada.

According to ARC, the resulting design has drawn the interest of Parks Canada, which has its own system of crossings in Banff, Alta.

But Nippard said there’s no reason the federal government can’t erect structures to keep the roads in the island’s two national parks — Terra Nova and Gros Morne — safer. Terra Nova has an estimated 1,000 moose and Gros Morne has 5,000.

Little done about moose

He said the province has done little to combat the moose problem on its highways, except cut brush and increase its awareness program since his group was formed almost two years ago.

“That’s only picking at the problem,” said Nippard, who lives in Grand Falls-Windsor.

“We have fought tooth and nail with the province to save lives in this province.”

Scientist Tony Clevenger, who has studied the results of wildlife crossings in Banff for about

15 years and came up with the ARC competition as a way of inspiring a cost-effective design, said cutting brush as the sole means of reducing wildlife accidents is archaic.

Surprised province not actively combatting problem

There are an estimated 700-800 moose-vehicle accidents here each year and a class-action lawsuit over the most serious has been launched by St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie against the provincial government.

Clevenger said in a telephone interview he was surprised this province hasn’t done more to combat the problem of moose on the highways, as other provinces like New Brunswick, Quebec, Alberta and some U.S. states have done out of concern for rising accidents. They combine overpasses and underpasses with fencing or just fencing.

His studies have shown accidents with elk — which have the most encounters with vehicles in Banff — have gone from 100 a year to a half-dozen as a result of the crossings and fencing. The mortality of large animals on the highways has been cut by 80 per cent.

“It was a slaughterhouse here,” Clevenger said.

“People here called it the meat maker.”

According to Parks Canada, 11 different species of large mammals used 30 wildlife crossings more than 220,000 times between the Banff National Park’s east gate and the British Columbia border since 1996.  There are now 41 crossing structures along 75 kilometres of highway, six of them overpasses. The crossings are combined with fencing.

Clevenger said the cost of producing the Banff-style crossings was getting too high, but the competition has proven there are better and less expensive ways of doing things.

The winning ARC design came from HNTB Engineering. Clevenger, one of the jurors, said it is a simple design that can become a transportation standard.

 Bridge engineer Ted Zoli of New York said his firm’s design is cost-effective. The structure that won the  competition is designed to span a twinned highway and would cost $4 million USD, possibly half that for a two-lane highway. The  pre-cast concrete overpass is landscaped to mimic natural wildlife habitat.

That price per structure includes a healthy budget for landscaping, said Zoli, technical director of bridges for his company.

The estimated cost of wildlife-vehicle crashes in the U.S. is $8 billion a year and Zoli said governments can’t afford to ignore the incidents, which have doubled in the last 15 years.

“We can’t be building major interstates in high quality habitat without some consideration of this problem with vehicles and animals,” Zoli said.

“It’s only getting worse. In my view, the problem has been studied enough.”

The goal of the competition was to supply an idea, but that doesn’t guarantee it will be built.

  The ARC competition’s adviser is Nina-Marie Lister, a visiting professor of design at Harvard and associate professor at Ryerson’s School of Urban and Regional Planning.

Lister said  the crossings provide the opportunity to protect people’s safety while satisfying concerns for wildlife habitat.

“You need a package of solutions,” she said.

And she said studies of existing crossings have conclusively demonstrated wildlife teach their young to use them.

“Sure they do,” said Nippard.


Organizations: Parks Canada, People Action Committee, HNTB Engineering Harvard Ryerson School of Urban and Regional Planning.Lister

Geographic location: Banff, U.S., Terra Nova Vail, Colo. Canada.According Grand Falls-Windsor New Brunswick Quebec Alberta Banff National Park British Columbia New York

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Recent comments

  • Graham
    January 29, 2011 - 18:03

    Here's a suggestion that will reduce collisions and won't cost the gov't a cent, introduce a night time speed limit of 50kms/hr.

  • david
    January 29, 2011 - 17:35

    The animal crossing is one of the besti have seen . It should be done ASAP

  • Johnny On Da' Spot
    January 29, 2011 - 15:53

    Just Because you were driving slow doesnt mean you were paying attention, people are going slow but on cell phones, playing with the radio, eating etc...

  • Frank Corcoran
    January 29, 2011 - 15:47

    Compare the number of moose on the highway to the number of drunk drivers or the amount of unsafe trucks and cars including tractor trailors that zoom by at record speed.... ratio would be what? 1/ 250000

  • Frank Corcoran
    January 29, 2011 - 15:37

    Moose and NL go hand in hand.... Its a part of living there... Theres no avoiding moose / vehicle accidents. Simple answer is to fence along high risk areas and add warning signs where fence ends. Chain link fence isn't that costly and last for years

  • dr
    January 29, 2011 - 13:59

    Discussion is needed to reach a solution. Good for all.

  • Student
    January 29, 2011 - 12:21

    I am a Civil Engineering student, and as a term project I am conducting a feasibility analysis for this type of fencing, and to answer some peoples questions, it costs, on average, $60,000 per Kilometre (YES PER ONE KILOMETRE) to install the fencing, plus a 10% maintenance cost on each kilometre per year after construction. So, what other provinces have done is only fence hot spots, which in other words, are those spots where moose frequent the most. It would be financially impossible to fence the whole highway!

  • tom collingwood
    January 29, 2011 - 11:08

    after contacting insurance co,s police dept of highways over the past five years there hasnt been even close to the 700 -800 accidents a yr.that is over two accidents every single day of the year.just not so. say it enough and it becomes fact. when you get your stats right then you might bring credibility to your cause

    • Jacob
      January 29, 2011 - 12:48

      Never really thought about the stats before, but you make a good point. Are there really over 2 collisions a day on average? That would mean to make up for all the days with no collisions, there are days when possibly 10-20 or more should occur. This just doesn't seem like a reasonable number. I do, in fact, think there are far too many collisions - but this potentially inflated number, as you mentioned, does nothing to help the credibility of such huge projects. I am sure they will look at the numbers in more detail before anything like this gets approved. A point to consider with these crossings is that fences are actually still required to guide wildlife to the overpasses. Looking at it that way, the overpasses may be viewed as only an expensive, unnecessary addition whereas fences would provide adequate safety improvements at much less cost. For this reason I think the province will settle with fences, if anything gets improved at all.

  • Anonymous
    January 29, 2011 - 11:02

    This sounds like nonsense to me. We can't possibly fence every highway in the province. What are we going to do when these moose don't use their overpasses, give them a jaywalking ticket? A much, much cheaper and likely more effective solution would be to hand out more moose hunting licenses. Every single Newfoundlander should be entitled to shoot several moose a year.

  • Yet Another Caution Driver From NL
    January 29, 2011 - 10:37

    I don't let the opinions of the few that like to provoke, like Donny Dummy Dooley, change how I feel about this or any other issue. There has to be something done by the Provincial and Federal Governments to try to lessen the number of moose vehicle collisions. That being said, people need not think that these collisions will stop completely, because, as Donny D points out, many people are driving without due care and attention!

  • Yes B'y
    January 29, 2011 - 10:25

    Yes B'y, I suppose we should put up a few signs too, just to let the moose know where their crossing is.

  • Frank Corcoran
    January 29, 2011 - 10:09

    How stupid can people be? An overpass for moose? Do that include direction signs for moose? Do one cow moose say to another cow moose... i want that bull over there but dread the 10km walk to the overpass

  • badameli
    January 29, 2011 - 09:17

    Seems like a very expensive proposal. We have a really long set of highway, a very small population, and a healthy amount of moose. Exactly how many moose crossings would NL need? and how much would each one cost? And what percentage of moose would be expected to cross at the crossings instead of just anywhere? If we put up fencing, how will we maintain it? What will the cost be of (transcanada alone) 1200km x 2 sides of fencing. Will it hold up to the weather here?

  • james
    January 29, 2011 - 09:17

    i guess next thing will be moose school to teach the moose to read

  • Bayman
    January 29, 2011 - 09:02

    All I hear from Eugene Nippard is that there are too many moose... something has got to be done about the moose. I think something needs to be done about the speed of the drivers and the vehicles they drive. I have been travelling at night at or below the posted speed limit when a vehicle would pass me like I'm tied on. You think this is safe knowing what could be on the highway just ahead ? Drivers know the difference and NEED to more cautious while behind the wheel and stop blaming wildlife that don't know the difference. Speed limits should be no more than 80 km on the tch and 70 km on others AT NIGHT. It should be strickly enforced with zero tolerance 70 means 70 not 75. Plus, headlights on many vehicles are garbage. A candle would almost illuminate as much. Invest in after market flood lights for these vehicles as truckers do to increase vision. This along with continued brushcutting and maybe an expansion in brushcutting along the highways will decrease accidents.

  • Cautious Driver
    January 29, 2011 - 08:30

    I am a very cautious driver and the first week of this month while coming across the Tilton/Trinity Bay barrens, I almost struck a moose. I was taking my time as it was late in the night and that road is bad for moose. And the moose was right in the middle of the road. So who in their right mind likes seeing moose on the highway? So Donny, what are you smoking and where can I get some. You must be crazy to like seeing moose on the roads. Not everyone who hits them are driving at high speeds with little caution. You must have never had a close call yourself.

  • Donny Dooley Dildo NL
    January 29, 2011 - 07:27

    Listen! I enjoy seeing moose on the highway. Why is SOPAC trying to take that away from me just becaue their family members and friends were not driving with proper care and attention? Time for these folks to get another hobby.

    • Mr.Mom
      January 29, 2011 - 10:25

      Donny what about those people on the highways that drive the speed limit and probably less at times but still had a moose run in front of them at that split second, too quick for them to react. Now some are either paralyzed or dead. I hope you or your family members dont have to experience that in your life time. Make some sense of what you post.