Animal crossings: the ecoducts helping wildlife navigate busy roads across the world | Wildlife | The Guardian

Good News Notes:

From a tiny railway bridge for dormice in the UK to elk, deer and bears benefitting from a slew of new animal crossings in Colorado, wildlife bridges are having a moment. As the human footprint on the planet continues to expand, a growing number of roads and railways include provisions for wildlife to pass through fragmented landscapes.

In January, we reported on Sweden’s plans to build a series of “renoducts” to help reindeer traverse the country’s main roads. The Swedish Transport Administration has since completed an ecoduct over the E6 in Skåne in southern Sweden, the third in the county. In southern California, work is due to begin on the largest wildlife bridge in the world in 2022, to connect isolated mountain lion populations north of Los Angeles that are becoming dangerously inbred. Joe Biden has earmarked $350m (£260m) of his $1.2tn infrastructure package for wildlife bridges to lessen the multibillion annual cost of collisions.

“Ten years ago, wildlife bridges were experimental. We didn’t know whether they would work or not. Now they’ve shown they get huge reductions in collisions. In some cases, 85% to 99% reductions,” says Rob Ament, a road ecology expert at Montana State University. “You can design them for many species. Even out in the plains, we’re getting moose crossings in North Dakota.”

Wildlife bridges are found on every continent: there is an elephant underpass near Mount Kenya; the Netherlands has a network of ecoducts that may help the country’s first wolf pack in more than 140 years gain a foothold across the densely populated country; suspended water pipes are helping Java’s endangered lorises; and a bison bridge may help the animals cross the Mississippi.

Here are five projects from around the world helping animals make their way:

Alligator Alley, Florida

The 129km (80-mile) stretch of road between Naples and Fort Lauderdale bisects the Everglades, an enormous wetland that is home to thousands of alligators, deer and the endangered Florida panther. It used to be notorious for high-speed collisions with wildlife until the road was upgraded to a four-lane motorway and crossings were installed. Today, dozens of underpasses and fencing help wildlife navigate the road. A camera trapping exercise found panthers, black bears, skunks, deer, bats, birds and even fish use the crossings, and hope is growing the state’s wildlife bridge network could be extended north to connect potential habitats for the Florida panther. “Fencing is critical along Alligator Alley. It is a 10ft-high chain link fence with three-strand barbed wire on top. That’s to keep the wildlife off the roadway and on the crossing,” says Brent Setchell, a design engineer at Florida Department of Transportation, who identifies potential crossing sites by monitoring road collisions with panthers and bears. “The fascinating thing is we just started monitoring the crossings four or five years ago. We found an abundance of wildlife.”

‘The tunnel of love’ on the Great Alpine Road, Australia

Stretching through the Victorian Alps in south-east Australia, the Great Alpine Road posed an existential threat to a colony of critically endangered mountain pygmy possums. Even though there are only about 150 of the marsupials on Mount Little Higginbotham, testing revealed genetic differences between sub-groups separated by the road, which are also threatened by fire, disappearing food sources and invasive species. Conservationists decided to build a “tunnel of love” between the isolated groups to improve mixing and strengthen their chances of survival. Over the last two summers, 30 possums have been identified using the tunnel of love, often in spring when they wake up from hibernation. The tiny marsupials can cross the nearly 15-metre tunnel in just 15 seconds – sometimes too fast for remote sensing cameras to capture them…”

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