Elk deaths renew call for wildlife fencing through mountain town near Banff park

It’s the third time this year that multiple elk have been killed in one night on the busy highway

An environmental group is renewing calls for wildlife fencing along the Trans-Canada Highway through a small Alberta mountain town after seven elk were killed on the weekend in a collision with a transport truck.

Officials with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which is based in Canmore, Alta., said fencing and an overpass for wildlife to cross the busy roadway would make it safer for animals and people.

“It’s a big problem,” Hilary Young, the group’s senior Alberta program manager, said Monday.

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The truck driver wasn’t hurt.

Canmore RCMP Sgt. Stan Andronyk said officers had to put down three of the elk that were hit.

It’s the third time this year that multiple elk have been killed in one night on the busy highway.

Andronyk said three elk were killed Feb. 28 in multiple collisions and five were killed March 17 in another collision involving a transport truck.

“They have been spending a lot of time on the side of the road or near it,” he said.

In addition to the 15 elk, Young said, a wolf pup was killed on the same stretch of highway this spring.

“I haven’t heard of this many happening,” she said. “This is unusual.”

Yellowstone to Yukon has an ongoing letter-writing campaign for a wildlife overpass to be built east of Canmore with fencing to keep animals off the highway.

“One of our main goals is to keep wildlife populations connected,” said Young. “We have been advocating for highway mitigation along the whole stretch from Banff National Park gate for the 40 kilometres down toward the Kananaskis River.

“In particular, we’ve been talking about an overpass for Bow Valley Gap.”

She said it’s expected the overpass would cost about $7 million and was included in the NDP government’s five-year capital plan.

Young said the group hopes o see that funding retained when the United Conservative Party takes over government.

“Even better, we’d love to see it pushed to the first year or two because it’s an urgent problem.”

The cost of the project could be recouped in a decade, she said.

“The cost to society for collisions is about $750,000 annually for health costs and general insurance costs.”

Local residents have also started a petition to try to get the provincial government to consider the safety measures.

“Alberta Transportation is responsible for roadway safety and operation,” says the online petition. “We urge the Alberta government to consider proper fencing and/or other projects to ensure drivers are safe in our community.”

Young said the measures would keep all drivers going through Canmore on the Trans-Canada Highway safe.

“We know that wildlife crossing structures and fencing are a success in Banff National Park.”

Parks Canada says on its website that highway fencing in the national park has reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by more than 80 per cent, and for elk and deer alone by more than 96 per cent.

“It’s important, especially in the Bow Valley, because it’s one of the busiest transportation corridors in the province,” said Young.

The Canadian Press

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