Highway 3 and Wildlife Connectivity
Preserving wildlife populations goes beyond safeguarding habitats. Just as we travel to work, run errands and go on holidays, animals move in order to find den sites, mate and adjust to seasonal change. Preserving wildlife corridors, or linkage zones, ensures that wildlife in the area have sufficient space to travel and access the benefits of their home range.
Three main corridors in the Crowsnest Pass are critical for wildlife passage.
- The West Corridor is located on the western edge of the Municipality between Coleman and Sentinel. Research shows this passage is essential to the viability of wildlife in this area.
- The Centre Corridor is located between Coleman and Blairmore. What was once a frequent conduit for carnivore movement is becoming compromised due to increased traffic and human activity.
- The East Corridor is located between the eastern edge of the Frank Slide and Burmis. Within this area, the Rock Creek drainage is key. Currently the least vulnerable of the three corridors, the East Corridor facilitates movement of cougars, grizzlies, badgers, bobcats and wolves.
Factors that increase the vulnerability of these corridors:
- Highway 3 and the railroad, running east and west, fracture various channels for north-south wildlife movement.
- In sensitive areas, manmade barriers such as buildings and fences further restrict the movement of wildlife and can result in population decline due to isolation.
Researchers have been working to understand popular wildlife corridors and to brainstorm solutions to protect both wildlife and humans. Miistakis Institute of the Rockies, RoadWatch’s citizen-science project, Western Transportation Institute, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and local biologist Dale Paton have catalogued hundreds of wildlife crossings in the region.
The goal? To provide practical solutions to encourage safe wildlife passage across Highway 3 in high priority areas. Crowsnest Conservation strongly supports this mandate.
To learn more about the science behind the wildlife connectivity and corridors in Crowsnest Pass, visit Miistakis’ website and view their “At a Crossroad: Highway 3 Transportation Corridor Project” report here.