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Report any sightings of bears, cougars or wolves
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For all public safety
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Living with Wildlife

Be WildSmart on the Highway

The Living with Wildlife column is published monthly in the Rocky Mountain Outlook to create awareness of living with wildlife challenges. We also work with local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote wildlife safety issues through the media on a weekly basis.

Wildlife and cars don’t mix. Every year, numerous wildlife-car collisions occur. These collisions can have serious implications, especially when they occur on the highway where cars are driving at high speeds.

Why would wildlife spend time near a highway with cars zooming by, one might ask?

Mountain sheep reside on extremely steep rock outcrops. This is a useful adaptation, since they can escape onto terrain their predators cannot access. During road development, paths have been cut through the base of the mountains, creating such terrain. During the winter, we deposit salt on the roads to help manage the ice. Mountain sheep seek out natural salt licks to satisfy their dietary requirements. Salt on the roads, especially adjacent to steep rocky terrain is an ideal salt lick in the minds of the sheep! Mountain sheep tend to be most active during the day (diurnal), so watch out for them during these times.

Deer, elk, and moose tend to eat vegetation that grows in open areas, which includes vegetation growing on the sides of the highways. They too are attracted to salt on the roads. They also need to cross the highway to access water, shelter, and to travel between habitat patches. Their predators, such as cougars, coyotes, and wolves will follow these ungulates. This predator-prey duo tend to be most active during dawn and dusk (crepuscular) so be especially vigilant driving to and from work and the ski hill.

Large carnivores, such as wolves, cougars, and bears can have extensive spatial requirements. For example, a female wolf has an average home range of 800 km2! Thus, the further they travel, the more likely they will cross a road structure.

Several crossing structures, such as underpasses and overpasses, have been constructed on the Trans Canada Highway to facilitate animal movement and minimize wildlife-highway collisions. Animals do use these crossing structures. The effectiveness of the structures is dramatically decreased if people use them, so please find another way to cross the highway if necessary. People found using the crossing structures are also subject to being fined.

Please travel the speed limit, and be vigilant at all times. You never know when an animal will dart across the road. If you do hit an animal in the Bow Valley, and no danger exists to you or other cars on the highway, call 403-591-7755. If the collision poses a public safety emergency, such as a human injury or if debris on the highway poses a danger to passing cars, call 9-1-1.

Thank you to our sponsors whose generosity has made WildSmart a reality.

Residents are encouraged to report any Bow Valley sightings of bear, cougar or aggressive elk to 403-591-7755. For sightings in Banff National Park, call 403-762-1470. For all public safety emergencies call 9-1-1.

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