Wildlife mitigations are needed on the Trans-Canada Highway between the east park gates to Banff National Park and Lac des Arcs and they are needed now.
Now when it is politically convenient for the government of the day to roll into town with photo opportunities and funding announcements – but as soon as possible before the valley experiences more carnage as a result of vehicle versus wildlife on the major four lane highway.
Each year the government of Alberta puts together a budget and within that there is a lot of things, specifically when we speak about capital projects like highways or new schools.
Alberta Transportation dedicates funds each year to wildlife mitigation and the fact that the Trans-Canada through the Bow Valley has not seen this issue addressed yet is a mind boggling considering how many of these incidents occur.
Bow Valley residents can see every single day the disparity in how wildlife mitigation is approached by the provincial and federal levels of government by merely driving between Banff and Canmore.
Wildlife fencing from the east gates westward has been in place for years. In fact, it has been there so long Parks Canada announced $26 million to replace the fence from the gates to the Sunshine Village exit.
For Parks Canada, keeping animals off the highway and people inside their vehicles safe is a priority.
Last week, the Outlook reported on the most recent incident of an elk being struck by a vehicle on the highway as it passes through Canmore at a speed of 110 km/h. This week we have published a letter from the driver of the vehicle, a 10 year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, who describes the terror she experienced as the elk ran in front of her SUV.
The driver is convinced the only reason she didn’t end up in hospital injured or worse is that she was driving a larger vehicle and that stopped the ungulate from coming through the windshield.
Sounds like she was lucky to walk away. But luck is the last thing we should be relying upon as a society when it comes to the health and safety of our citizens or our responsibility to managing the issue of wildlife in the Bow Valley.
We cannot as a community change where the highway is located. Near Palliser and the hospital, it transects flat open land that is very attractive to the local herd of elk regardless of what time of year it is.
The elk herd that lives within and around Canmore has been using that area and returns to it to seek safety from predators and eat the grasses that grow there.
It is a problem and it is one that only the provincial government through Alberta Transportation, the budget and Alberta Environment and Parks can solve – wildlife management and highway infrastructure are their jurisdictions – not the Town of Canmore.
We urge the government the include funding in the next budget for this issue and while fencing would be ideal to address this issue, there are other mitigations that can be more easily considered and installed.
Like signage on the highway that is activated by motion sensors when the elk herd is in the vicinity. Seems pretty simple, but sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to accomplish. Especially when the only thing we can do as residents is lobby a government in Edmonton to fix a problem along a few kilometres of highway near Canmore.