Animal bridge to help save iconic bighorn sheep in B.C.
Collisions have caused herd numbers to dwindle dangerously low.
The big horn sheep is particularly significant to First Nations groups in B.C. – Province of B.C.
- A major partnership has formed to protect animals in the East Kootenays by building a wildlife bridge.
- The project is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Forests, the Village of Radium Hot Springs, and Parks Canada
- the Radium herd represents one of the last viable bighorn sheep populations in the region.
- Approximately 10% of the herd falls victim to collisions with vehicles each year.
The Whole Story:
Animals need bridges too.
To safeguard both the local residents and the iconic bighorn sheep, a new wildlife overpass is set to be constructed near Mile Hill, just south of Radium Hot Springs in B.C. The innovative project, a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Forests, the Village of Radium Hot Springs, and Parks Canada, aims to mitigate vehicle collisions with the bighorn sheep along Highway 93/95, while providing a safe passage for the creatures.
The Radium Wildlife Overpass, scheduled to be tendered in the coming weeks, will encompass approximately six kilometers of wildlife fencing and strategically positioned gates, ensuring a guided path for animals towards the overpass and safely across the busy highway. Officials stated that not only will the initiative help reduce the risk of accidents and enhance the safety of highway users, but it will also protect the local bighorn sheep herd, which holds immense significance to First Nations people and the entire community of the East Kootenays.
Rob Fleming, minister of transportation and infrastructure, emphasized the importance of prioritizing public safety while preserving the region’s precious wildlife. “It’s vital that we keep people safe and protect these animals that are so critical to regional biodiversity,” he said. “With the help of our partners, this new overpass will support safe passage for the bighorn sheep, protecting this herd that is so important to local First Nations and all the people of the East Kootenays.”
Several prominent entities have joined forces as project partners, including Parks Canada, the Village of Radium Hot Springs, Teck Resources Ltd., the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Ktunaxa Nation Council, and the Shuswap Band. Construction on the wildlife overpass is expected to commence in the near future.
The project comes as part of a broader campaign to mitigate collisions between wildlife and vehicles. Recent efforts include the installation of prominent wildlife signage, flashing LED warning signs to alert drivers of sheep presence, and a message sign that highlights changes in sheep activity. Additionally, the speed limit in the Mile Hill area was temporarily reduced to 70 kilometers per hour. Collaborating closely with the Shuswap First Nation and Ktunaxa Nation, the Ministry staff have provided monitoring of the bighorn sheep herd.
Conservation groups have emphasized the critical importance of safeguarding the Radium herd, which represents one of the last viable bighorn sheep populations in the region.
It has become a major issue for wildlife in the region. Approximately 10% of the herd falls victim to collisions with vehicles each year, resulting in a significant decline in numbers. The population dwindled from approximately 230 sheep in 2003 to a mere 120 in 2019, underscoring the urgent need for effective measures to reduce collisions.
Reports reveal that B.C. sees over 5,400 wildlife-motor vehicle collisions annually, with numerous incidents involving deer, elk, bear, and moose. Deer, in particular, contribute to approximately 85% of wildlife collisions across the province. Taking these statistics into account, B.C. has become a frontrunner in wildlife conservation efforts within the transportation sector. The province boasts over 600 kilometers of wildlife exclusion fencing, surpassing any other transportation agency in North America, and holds the title of having the highest number of wildlife overpasses in Canada.