As humans, we’ve evolved in the way we travel, while our animal friends still use the only methods they know: on foot or hoof, by belly or by wings. Our concrete jungles have impacted their lives, and roads and highways lead to accidents. That being said, there are more and more animal bridges and “highways” popping up. We can all travel in our own way and get where we need to go with a lot less risk.
Here are some of the beautiful wildlife highways throughout the country (although there are many all over the globe).
Flathead Indian Reservation
Our first stop brings us to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. Believe it or not, this wildlife reservation sits on almost 2 thousand square miles of untouched wilderness. It’s home to hundreds of species of birds and mammals. The wildlife crossing is essential to maintaining the flow of wildlife traffic in the area. If you’ve ever traveled down U.S. Highway 93, you may have noticed the animal trails along the reservation. But wait, there’s more.
Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing
This video posted in May of 2020 shows the first elk crossing over I-90 using the animal bridge east of the Snoqualmie Pass. This specific overpass for animals was completed in 2018, but it took some time for them to warm up to it. There are also animal crossings at Hyak and Gold Creek that were completed in 2015. If you live near or travel through this area in Washington, check them out.
There are some specially designed wildlife crossings for reptiles and amphibians. They may be tiny, but they definitely matter to our ecosystem. You can find some of them in certain parts of California.
Bruce Kamp Memorial Bridge
A tiny suspension bridge allows small animals like squirrels and chipmunks to cross the road safely. You’ll find the Bruce Kamp Memorial Bridge over one of Longview, Washington’s main roads. The bridge was built in 2011. However, it isn’t the first of its kind in the area: you can also find the Nutty Narrows Bridge and the John Dick Squirrel Bridge, just to name two.
There are toad tunnels in California to help our leaping friends make their way wherever they roam. I think the miniature buildings are my favorite part. Toad Hollow started as a way to help save amphibians from danger when the six-lane highway was being installed. The road cut these critters off from their native wetlands. Toad Hollow has been around since 1995; I’m definitely happy about it!
According to Smithsonian Magazine, animals began crossing this incredible bridge far earlier than anyone expected. This fenced-in overpass allows wildlife to cross over a portion of the dangerous six-lane highway in Utah, formerly known as “Slaughter Row,” because of the number of animals being harmed or worse. Now, they can safely make their way from point A to point B without potential disaster.
It’s always broken my heart to see animals wounded (or worse) on the side of the road. Growing up, I wondered why there weren’t safer ways for the animals to travel around beyond the usual traffic warning signs. To see so many places making changes to protect vital wildlife brings a happy tear to my eye.
Photo: Wildlife Overpass, Banff National Park (m01229 via Wikimedia Commons)