Turning Highways of Death into Safe Passages for Wildlife With Corridors and Crossings

The intersection of wildlife habitats and human infrastructure presents unique challenges. Across the United States, wildlife corridors and crossings have emerged as vital solutions, mitigating risks for both animals and humans.

Animals, in their quest for food, water, and mates, often encounter dangerous barriers like highways. In the U.S., over a million automobile accidents annually involve wildlife, leading to significant costs and ecological disruptions, National Geographic reports. These collisions are not just hazardous for drivers but are also the leading cause of death for many vertebrate species.

Wildlife crossings are often landscaped for natural appeal.

Photo: Pexels
Wildlife crossings are often landscaped for natural appeal.

Corridors vs. Crossings

It’s important to differentiate between wildlife corridors and crossings. Corridors are natural pathways used by wildlife, while crossings are man-made structures that facilitate safe passage across barriers like roads, reports the Center for Large Landscape Conservation. Both play crucial roles in preserving biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Success Stories

The effectiveness of wildlife corridors and crossings is evident worldwide. In Canada’s Banff National Park, over 150,000 safe crossings by various mammals were documented over two decades, significantly reducing vehicle collisions National Geographic reports. Similarly, in Arizona, the introduction of wildlife corridors led to a 90% drop in wildlife-related highway accidents.

Wildlife corridors support genetic diversity in species.

Photo: Pexels
Wildlife corridors support genetic diversity in species.

Legislative Support and Community Involvement

The success of these initiatives often hinges on legislative support and community involvement. For example, the Virginia General Assembly’sWildlife Corridor Action Plan aims to identify and protect vital corridors, reducing vehicle-animal collisions. States like California and Colorado have also passed significant legislation, allocating funds and resources towards these conservation efforts, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.

The benefits of these corridors and crossings extend beyond mammals. National wildlife refuges in the U.S. play a critical role in supporting migratory paths for birds, fish, and other species, as well as the interconnectedness of various ecosystems reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Wildlife crossings increase animals' access to essential resources.

Photo: Pexels
Wildlife crossings increase animals’ access to essential resources.

Challenges and Future Directions

Despite their proven benefits, implementing wildlife corridors and crossings faces challenges. High construction costs and the need for extensive research are significant hurdles. However, the long-term ecological and safety benefits often outweigh these initial investments, Wild Virginia reports. Continuous research, like that in Virginia, is crucial for identifying high-risk areas and developing effective crossing points.

Dedicated wildlife crossings reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Photo: Pexels
Dedicated wildlife crossings reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

The creation of wildlife corridors and crossings is more than an environmental issue; it’s a matter of public safety and ecological responsibility. As human development continues to encroach on natural habitats, these initiatives offer a balanced approach to preserving wildlife and ensuring safer roadways. With increasing legislative support and community awareness, the potential for expanding these networks is significant, promising a safer, more harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife.

Click below and support the construction of vital wildlife corridors and crossings where they can make the most impact across the U.S.!

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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