America’s highways line the countryside and flank our cities, connecting people from the far reaches of the coasts to the inner heartland. But roads are not just a means of transportation for people, they’re also a barrier to meandering wildlife. Thousands of crossing deer and other wildlife continue to fall victim to the cars buzzing by — but so do some of America’s more endangered species. In fact, four grizzlies were killed in crashes between 1998 and 2010.
Which is why Montana’s Department of Transportation enlisted help from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Montana State University and the Defenders of Wildlife during its planning for the expansion of U.S. Highway 93.
Initially, members of the tribes resisted the highway, which divides the Flathead Indian Reservation, due to the disruption it caused to local wildlife. But the expansion now contains 41 fish and wildlife underpasses and overpasses, along with other protective designs to prevent wildlife from becoming roadkill.
For example, Montana installed motion cameras, which have captured images of deer teaching their young to run back and forth through the crossings — showing us how animals are also adapting to roads.
As more states begin construction updating their infrastructure, the technology that Montana uses to avoid animal fatalities now serves a model that could be used elsewhere in the country.