Summer 2019

Newsletter Archive


Improving Human and Wildlife Safety along Alberta's Highway Network

article image

Understanding how roads affect wildlife in Alberta is an important consideration for conservation. The impact of roads on the movement and mortality of wildlife pose a major hurdle to wildlife management and conservation objectives. To safely move wildlife across the road network requires not only knowledge of where wildlife cross but also investment in strategies to ensure safe movement. Strategies that have proven most effective include removing wildlife from the roadway with fencing while still facilitating movement through a tunnel or a bridge structure under/over the road. Although this type of infrastructure has proven effective they are expensive and therefore identifying high priority areas for wildlife conservation is important.

Additionally, roads also pose a risk to people and vehicles from collisions with animals. Currently road mitigation tends to focus on areas where there is high number of animal vehicle collisions (AVCs). This assumes that areas of high AVCs also represent important areas for wildlife movement and mortality from a conservation perspective.

Miistakis Institute and partners Center for Large Landscape Conservation and Dr. Adam Ford recently developed a decision support tool to support enhancing the efficiency, sustainability, and safety of a provincial highway system by systematically identifying priority road sections for mitigation measures to improve wildlife movement and reduce AVCs in the South Saskatchewan Region of Alberta.

We developed an AVC Risk Index using RCMP records of animal carcasses from AVCs along roads in the Southern Alberta. This index enabled the identification of highway sections with a high human safety risk. We developed functional connectivity models for four focal species (pronghorn, rattlesnake, grizzly bear, and mule deer) and species-neutral structural connectivity model using ArcGIS Linkage Mapper software, and then derived Connectivity Value Indices for highway sections by extracting values from the connectivity model outputs. We compared AVC Risk Indices and Connectivity Value Indices and determined there is very little overlap between indexes. Thus, priority areas for wildlife conservation do not necessarily align with priority areas for reducing AVCs.

We explored different scenarios with stakeholders from AEP and AT for combining the AVC Risk Indices and Connectivity Value Indices by using a weighted average approach that allowed greater emphasis on either human safety or wildlife connectivity value.

Please download final report for more information or visit our website to learn more.