BOZEMAN — Scientists at Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute and their influential research on the world’s largest complex of wildlife crossing structures were featured in a recent article in Canadian Geographic magazine.
The complex, a series of tree-covered overpasses and earth-lined culverts perforating a roughly 51-mile stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park, has been a focus of study for Tony Clevenger, a senior research scientist at WTI, for nearly two decades.
“This is Canada’s biggest conservation success story,” Clevenger is quoted as saying in the Dec. 4 online article, titled. The article recounts the construction of the structures since the 1980s and cites Clevenger’s “17 years-worth of data proving the efficacy of the crossings.”
According to Clevenger, nearly a dozen species of large mammals have used the Banff structures more than 150,000 times and the mortality rates for large carnivores such as grizzly bears are now 50 to 100 percent lower where the crossings have been installed.
“We know these structures work and that there are cost benefits” in terms of reducing animal-vehicle collisions and conserving wildlife, said Clevenger, who joined WTI in 2002 after working independently on the Banff research for five years.
To document how wildlife used the crossings, Clevenger and his colleagues used motion-activated cameras as well as pads of sand, which were routinely checked for animal tracks. They also used unobtrusive barbed wire to collect hair samples, which were then genetically tested to determine, for example, how many individual bears had used a crossing.