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Three vehicles damaged after elk hit on highway near Canmore

CANMORE – A multi-vehicle collision involving elk on the Trans-Canada Highway last week in Canmore is putting the highway fencing issue back in the spotlight. Three vehicles were damaged Thursday evening (Feb.
High Speed Collision
Canmore Fire Rescue responded to a collision between Elk and vehicles along the Trans Canada Highway near Palliser Trail in Canmore in February.

CANMORE – A multi-vehicle collision involving elk on the Trans-Canada Highway last week in Canmore is putting the highway fencing issue back in the spotlight.

Three vehicles were damaged Thursday evening (Feb. 28) after a collision involving elk on the road near the Palliser area between exit 89 and 86 of the TCH.

“The herd was right close to the highway and a number of elk were on the road ... three vehicles were involved in the [collision] and one person was taken to hospital, but there were no serious injuries,” said Canmore Sgt. Stan Andronyk.

While the Bow Valley is renowned for the wildlife mitigation along the Trans-Canada Highway with 38 wildlife underpasses and overpasses from Banff National Park to the border of Yoho National Park, the lack of highway fencing east of the park gates remains a hot topic.

“I know there have been a number of concerns raised about [wildlife],” Andronyk said. “At this time, we know there are a number of elk hanging around the highway in that area and we want to tell people just to drive carefully, be aware and maybe slow down a bit. It is difficult to predict where they are when it’s dark, it’s hard to see them, [so] be cautious.”

Elk are becoming an increasing concern in Canmore as they continue to utilize golf courses, playing fields, schoolyards and other green spaces in town, according to an 86-page study by the Town of Canmore, Town of Banff and provincial government.

While the Human Wildlife Coexistence Report does note elk are becoming increasingly wary of people, vehicles are a different story.

RCMP officials gave a rough estimate that at least a dozen elk were hit on the stretch of highway through Canmore in 2018, equating to at least one reported elk collision per month.

While there were no serious injuries in last week’s accident, physical injuries aside, wildlife research scientist Tony Clevenger spoke at a WildSmart event earlier this year where he estimated vehicle collisions with an elk cost an estimated $15,000 per accident.

“This is a provincial highway right-of-way and Alberta Transportation is responsible for roadway safety and operation ... From a Town engineering perspective we are working towards constructing two additional crossings for residents and visitors to walk and bicycle across the road as part of our transportation plan,” said Andy Esarte, manager of engineering for the Town.

The Town project plans include improvement to the Benchlands overpass and developing pedestrian overpass near Palliser.

As for wildlife mitigation solutions from the Province, the Alberta government hired a consultant last spring to do a design and cost benefit analysis in for a wildlife overpass across the busy Trans-Canada Highway at Bow Valley Gap, but no projects have been announced yet.

“I’m not aware of proposals for fencing in that particular area, but we’ve undertaken planning studies and hired a consultant to look at potential overpasses and other wildlife detection systems towards the rock cut,” said Cam Westhead, Banff-Cochrane MLA.

“Certainly anytime we can make motorists safer and our roads safer it is worth investigating.”

The provincial budget for 2019 has not been released yet.


Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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