Making roads safer for wildlife at Parks Canada

We’re all in the driver’s seat to make a difference for wildlife!

Each year, Parks Canada welcomes millions of visitors into the natural habitats of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Whether you are visiting or passing through national parks, your time on the road could be putting you and wildlife at risk of injury or death.

Did you know? Roads are the biggest source of human-caused wildlife death in Canada’s national parks. Simply put—speeding kills wildlife

Parks Canada works with many partners across the country on solutions to make roads safer for wildlife—and people—in protected areas.

Animals on the move

Many species must travel across roads and beyond park boundaries to find shelter, food and water, mates, and to raise their young. Their unrestricted movements also help promote gene flow across the population. This can make wildlife more resistant to disease and other stressors.

Likewise, roads and railways in Canada allow us to explore and connect us with family and friends. They also help move vital food and supplies across the country.

Yet roads divide the land, creating scattered patches of habitats. They negatively impact ecological connectivity by impeding the natural movements of wildlife across the land. This makes it harder for wildlife to move freely and safely in their habitat.

A dozen caribou cross a road in autumn as a blue truck is stopped waiting. One caribou drinks from a puddle on the side of the road.
A herd of caribou and a family of black bears cross the road to travel through their habitat
One mother black bear and two cubs cross on a paved road in front of a red car that is stopped.

Helping animals cross the road

Parks Canada and partners use innovative solutions in national parks to keep visitors and wildlife safe. Our efforts also help reconnect landscapes that have been fragmented by roads.

An aerial view of a forested mountainous valley with a river winding through it. A twinned highway and a secondary road also run through it. A wildlife overpass spans over a section of the 4-lane highway.
The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the Bow Valley

We build crossings that help wildlife move between patches of habitat, without the risk of being hit by a vehicle.

An aerial view of a wildlife overpass that crosses over a 4-lane highway with dense evergreen forests on either side of the highway.
Overpasses provide naturalized bridges for wildlife to cross safely over roads
A close up of a small cement tunnel with an earth floor.
Eco-passages provide tunnels for wildlife to cross safely under roads
A grey wolf walks through snow along a fence among the mountains.
Exclusion fencing leads wildlife to crossing structures and away from roads

We have proof that these efforts are reducing the risk of wildlife collisions, and restoring ecological connectivity. Some of the wildlife protected by these crossing structures include:

Photos taken by wildlife remote cameras

Select images to enlarge

We use a suite of different tools to reduce the impacts of roads on wildlife in national parks. This helps protect many species—from Canada Lynx in Terra Nova, to American Marten in Forillon, to Wood Bison in Wood Buffalo.

Katherine Cumming
National Manager of Impact Assessment, Parks Canada
A black and white close up of a small, fuzzy mammal.
American Marten

Paving the way

Parks Canada staff, including teams from Banff National Park and Highway Engineering Services, are leaders in helping many species cross roads safely. Conservation staff plan and monitor wildlife crossing structures. While the asset team designs and constructs the infrastructure. These efforts help keep wildlife—and people—safe during travels on the road.

A view from the 4-lane highway of a wildlife overpass with snow-capped and forested mountains towering in the background.
One of the wildlife overpasses crossing the Trans-Canada Highway at Banff National Park

The Trans-Canada Highway spans the Rocky Mountains. By the late 1970s, traffic in the Bow Valley became too heavy for the two-lane highway. Close to 100 large animals were dying every year on this busy stretch of road. In the early 1980’s, Parks Canada began work with transportation partners to twin the highway. They used this opportunity to explore new ways to reduce wildlife collisions and reconnect landscapes.

Since then, Parks Canada and partners have maintained the longest road-ecology study in the world. Their groundbreaking use of wildlife crossings has proven successful in reducing wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay national parks. This has been especially true for large mammals.

Two deer with small antlers exit a metal underpass toward a fence.
Two deer use the wildlife underpass to cross the road safely
A brown bear walks along a grassy area alongside a fence with a highway behind it.
A grizzly bear walks across the wildlife overpass. Exclusion fencing leads wildlife to crossing structures and away from roads
A black bear exits a metal eco-passage and walks in the direction of a fence.
A black bear exits a wildlife underpass

The 49 crossing structures (42 underpasses and 7 overpasses) reduced wildlife collisions by more than 80%, and by over 96% for elk and deer alone. Inspired by this success, wildlife crossings are now built and advocated for across the country to protect species and drivers.

Watch the asset team build a wildlife crossing in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia:

Text transcript

[Music begins. "March of Time 3" by Tim Garland, Geoffery Keezer, and Joseph Locke.]

Kootenay National Park: Helping wildlife cross the road

More than 300 white-tailed deer and many other animals died on this highway between 2003 and 2012. One section was 4 times as deadly as the average.

This underpass and eight others under 15 kilometres of fenced highway are changing that.

The Wildlife Crossing Project

Kootenay National Park: Helping wildlife cross the road

First of its kind

Smaller animals like amphibians, snakes and turtles—many of which are species at-risk—use special tunnels called eco-passages to safely cross roads in national parks.

Parks Canada is working to protect the Long-toed Salamander at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, where the species is of Special Concern. Each year, some of the salamanders must cross the road to reach the lake where they breed. In the late 1990s, almost half of Long-toed Salamanders observed there were killed during this annual migration.

Today, the salamanders make it across the road safely thanks to the eco-passages installed by Parks Canada and supported by volunteers. The salamander road crossings in Waterton Lakes were the first of their kind in Parks Canada places. This work has since inspired other national parks and organizations to follow suit.

A close up of a black salamander with long fingers and toes and a yellow stripe from its head to its tail rests on a rock.
Parks Canada and volunteers are helping the Long-toed Salamander cross the road safely at Waterton Lakes National Park
A person reaches into a hole that is under a roadway using a long pole. Two others stand near, one is also holding a pole.

Watch how Parks Canada uses eco-passages and exclusion fencing to help save the Long-toed Salamander and other amphibians from road mortality:

Text transcript

Parks Canada Beaver Logo

A dark green illustrated map of Canada showing Waterton Lakes National Park appears, then zooms into a roadway inside the park with Long-toed Salamanders crawling across the road.

The date “1994” is indicated in the top left corner. A label in the bottom right corner indicates that the roadway mortality rate of Long-toed Salamanders crossing the road in 1994 is 10%.

Animated cars begin driving along the road overtop of the salamanders. A red X appears over the salamanders, representing their death.

As the year in the top left corner increases, the number of cars driving on the road also increases. The roadway mortality rate also increases to 40% in 2001.

The date increases to 2008 and the frame zooms out to reveal a larger section of the roadway. Four amphibian underpasses appear along the roadway. A section of fencing spans either side of the road.

The frame zooms in to reveal that the fencing limits access to the roadway and directs salamanders to the amphibian underpasses.

The salamanders cross under the roadway safely while cars continue to pass over top.

The year increases to 2009 and the roadway mortality rate has decreased to 0.6%.

Text appears above an illustrated salamander that says: “Salamanders roadway mortality decreased from 44% to 0.6%

Government of Canada logo

Give me a brake

Parks Canada is working to educate drivers and promote responsible driving to reduce wildlife mortality on roads. Southern Ontario has the highest density of roads in Canada. Road mortality is the biggest threat to turtles in this region, many of which are species-at-risk.

A turtle with moss growing on its shell rests on the gravely roadside beside some grass.
A Snapping turtle on the roadside, a species of special concern in Ontario

Conservation scientists at Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park built eco-passages and exclusion fencing to help turtles cross busy roads safely.

A dirt road has a narrow metal grate running from one side to the other.
Specially designed eco-passages built under roads allow turtles and other amphibians to cross safely
A view from inside the underground tunnel shows a dirt floor with cement walls and a metal grate ceiling.
A large turtle with a long pointed tail walks through the tunnel.

The “Give me a brake” campaign urges drivers to safely slow down and stop for turtles at Rouge National Urban Park in Ontario.

A Parks Canada staff person stands beside a large roadside billboard that shows a close up of a turtle on the yellow line of a road. Text on the sign reads I am slow. Give me a brake!
A road sign alerts drivers to turtles on the road as part of the “Give me a brake” campaign

The road to recover turtle populations isn’t easy—but it is possible

Text transcript

Parks Canada logo

[upbeat music throughout] [narrator] From the day they're born,

Turtle hatchling emerges from its nest for the first time, explores land and water.

turtles are on the move. Turtles travel across a range of different habitats

Aerial view of a natural setting with turtles moving around; roads are developed.

to mate, nest, and find food and water. When roads are developed in an area, it can cause habitat fragmentation. This means that turtles and other animals

Turtle crossing road while a car is rapidly approaching.

must cross over roads to get from one habitat to another. Many animals are hit and killed by cars while trying to move between habitats, which is known as road mortality. Roads are one of the leading causes of decline

Roads wrapping around a view of earth from space.

of reptile and amphibian populations worldwide. Today, seven out of Ontario's eight turtle species

Pie charts demonstrating the number of at risk turtles and snake species in Ontario.

and 10 out of Ontario's 16 snake species are classified as 'at risk'. The Bruce Peninsula is a thriving natural area

Aerial view of the Bruce Peninsula.

that extends between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Bruce Peninsula National Park protects the largest section of green space in southern Ontario, and is rich in biodiversity. The park is home to 26 different species

Symbols of frogs, snakes, and turtles pop up within the park area.

of reptiles and amphibians! At our park, we're taking action to protect our reptiles and amphibians

View of park sign with turtle walking underneath.

through the On the Road to Recovery project. This project includes a special focus on species at risk, such as the Common snapping turtle, Massasauga rattlesnake, Eastern ribbonsnake,

Animations of common snapping turtle, Massassauga rattlesnake, eastern ribbonsnake, and eastern milksnake.

and Eastern milksnake. We're making our roads safer for wildlife by installing Eco-passages and Eco-fencing

Park staff installing an eco-passage.

at road mortality hotspot locations. The Eco-fencing acts as a barrier, guiding turtles, snakes, frogs, and other small animals towards the Eco-passages,

Turtle using an eco-passage.

allowing them to cross underneath roads safely. We're also creating artificial turtle nesting sites

Adult turtle nesting on an artificial nesting mound.

near known turtle habitats. This way, female turtles can lay eggs without even crossing the road! You can help protect reptiles and amphibians too! Watch for wildlife on the road, especially when driving through natural spaces.

Turtle crossing in front of a car.

If you see a turtle on the road, pull your car over where it's safe, and help the turtle across in the direction it was going. If it's a snapping turtle,

Driver pulls over, helps turtle across the road using a shovel.

you can use a stick, shovel or paddle to move it across. Don't forget to record your turtle sighting and location on the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas app.

Person records turtle sighting on their phone; turtle swims in the lake.

You can also use this app to report snake, frog, or salamander sightings. Get involved! Bruce Peninsula National Park

Person takes nest cage off of turtle mound, records data on clipboard.

has a Citizen Science volunteer program to help monitor and protect turtles! You could help contribute important data on turtle activity, and give hatchling turtles a better chance at survival. Go to bruce-recovery

View of Parks Canada webpage.

for more information, and help us make the world a little safer for turtles...

Turtle crosses underneath road in an eco-passage; car zooms overtop.

[music ends]

On the Road to Recovery logo.

Parks Canada logo.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by Parks Canada, 2018.

Canada wordmark.

Caught on camera

Want to see who is crossing the road safely? Trail cams set up by Parks Canada conservation staff capture wildlife crossings in action, giving us a clearer picture of the species using these crossings:

A black bear enters a wildlife underpass.
Wildlife use underpasses to travel safely under the road instead of across it
Two elk with large antlers exist from under a specially designed bridge.
A black wolf exits from a large metal eco-passage.

Fatal attraction

Craving a good snack on a road trip? You are not alone. Animals are attracted to human food, garbage, salt, and vegetation on the roadside. Some are even attracted to the heat radiating from summer roads. As animals become more familiar and comfortable with roads, there is more risk of conflict, injury—or death—for both wildlife and people.

Two brown and white sheep with small horns both lick the pavement on the road.
Two young sheep lick road salt
A caribou with large velvet antlers munches on grasses and flowers on the side of the road.
A caribou munches on roadside vegetation

Across the country, Parks Canada is working with transportation partners to help steer wildlife away from roads. We take many actions to achieve this, like managing roadside vegetation and installing salt licks that deter wildlife from approaching the road. You can do your part by disposing of all garbage and food waste in designated bins.

Don’t make the roadside an attractive place for wildlife!

A large brown bear climbs over a metal railing along a paved road toward the forest side.
A grizzly bear attempts to climb over a guardrail

How you can help save wildlife while on the road

Parks Canada is working hard to make roads safer for wildlife and people across the country. Yet we can't protect wildlife on roads alone! You also have an important role to play in keeping wildlife and people safe while in national parks:

  • Respect speed limits—speeding kills! That’s because speeding:
    • reduces reaction time for both drivers and wildlife
    • reduces ability to maneuver vehicle quickly and effectively to avoid a collision
    • increases the force of an impact, making it more likely to cause fatal injuries
    • lessens your chances of spotting wildlife and taking evasive action
    • requires longer distances to brake for wildlife
  • Don’t create a hazard by stopping to take photos of roadside wildlife
  • Be alert and anticipate seeing wildlife on the road, even in areas with wildlife fencing
  • Watch for road signs that indicate wildlife crossings
  • Look out for speed feedback signs that alert you of your speed
  • Slow down for speed bumps in sensitive areas
A truck and a car drive fast on a highway. A yellow road sign cautions them about moose collisions.
A road sign altering drivers to watch for moose in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland
A large moose walks across a paved road as a car comes driving around a corner.
A moose passes in front of a driver on the road. Photo: Mark Raycroft

These measures are effective, but only with your help… Thank you for slowing down for wildlife when driving in protected areas—their life depends on you.

A black bear strolls across the road.
Photo: Mark Raycroft

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