Fernie – If you drive along Highway 3 from Alberta into BC, you’re sure to see plenty of wildlife. But although a moose sighting beside the road may be exciting, seeing road kill is not so much, and a head-on collision is even worse.
Well, now you can help to reduce the frequency and effects of wildlife-vehicle collisions. A new program called RoadWatchBC is putting increased highway safety for both people and wildlife into the hands of anyone with a smartphone or a computer.
Developed by Wildsight, the Miistakis Institute, the Western Transportation Institute, and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, RoadWatchBC is based on gathering information using citizen science—scientific research conducted primarily by regular citizens. Anyone who drives Highway 3 through BC’s Elk Valley can participate in the program using a suite of easy-to-use tools to report road-side wildlife, dead or alive.
The free smartphone app for Apple and Android has a simple, user-friendly interface whereby participants can instantly log wildlife sightings near or crossing the highway. Participants also have the option to use an online mapping tool at a later time (since the app is designed to be used by passengers and not drivers). Drivers just need to remember when, where and what animal they saw near or crossing the highway. Using these methods, citizens are able to partner with scientists to determine where animals tend to cross the highway safely or, conversely, be struck by vehicles.
Gaining an understanding of wildlife movements along the highway is an important first step in developing strategies for reducing vehicle–wildlife collisions and maintaining connected wildlife populations. The information on vehicles and wildlife “hotspots” gained from the RoadWatchBC program will be shared with the British Columbia Transportation Ministry to determine potential areas to build overpasses and underpasses, culverts, fencing and animal-detection systems that will allow safe pathways for animals to cross busy highways.
“Highway mitigation is often looked at as being expensive infrastructure, but if you look at the numbers this simply isn’t the case,” said Tracy Lee, project manager for RoadWatchBC. “Once you have more than three deer collisions within one kilometre of road per year, it is less expensive to put in an underpass. By finding out where along the highways we have the most wildlife traffic and wildlife-vehicle collisions, we can determine where mitigation will be the most successful and economic. RoadWatchBC can help us do that.”
RoadWatchBC is holding a project launch on June 22, at 6pm, in the Art Station in Fernie, BC. Attendees can view a short film on highway mitigation, learn more about the program, test-drive the apps and tools, and more.
For more information on the project, please go to http://www.roadwatchbc.ca or download the app from the App Store or the Google Play store.