-Montana Finds Practical Solutions for Protecting Wildlife Along Highways
In their latest report entitled Highway Mitigation for Wildlife in Northwest Montana, researchers spell out the impacts of exurban growth and traffic on Grizzly bears another wildlife species. The report looks at the potential impacts of future housing development on traffic in order to assess which areas will see an increase in traffic from housing development and thus impact habitat connectivity for large carnivores.
Looking at Flathead and Lincoln counties in Northwestern Montana, the study sought to find ways to maintain wildlife habitat connectivity across transportation corridors in the face of future traffic increases. This effort uses a proactive approach that identified potential problem areas before the full impacts materialize. By modeling population and housing growth projections, the researchers were able to identify potential problem areas for wildlife connectivity.
The key was finding intersections between the segments of highway that will experience increased traffic and identifying sections of highway that have high habitat connectivity. After determining these intersections as priority sites, experts evaluated these 13 areas to decide which sites have the greatest potentially to negatively affect habitat connectivity and determine the importance of each site for wildlife mitigation purposes.
The study shows that Highway 2 between Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness, near Essex, MT, shows the highest value as a potential mitigation opportunity. The study also provides potential mitigation options in both the short and long-term.
Short term solutions include:
- Cautionary road signs
- Animal detection systems
Long-term options include:
- Using existing structures such as bridges and culverts and improving them so that wildlife can pass under a road.
- Building new structures like wildlife overpasses or underpasses. Mitigation options that involve structures necessitate the construction of fencing to funnel wildlife to the structure and to give animals caught on the road a jump-out option.
To read the full report, follow this link: Highway Mitigation for Wildlife in Northwest Montana