“Build it and they will come.” This expression is true and the proof is here. When you build a bridge for animals, they will use it!
I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing… but yes, there are bridges for animals. There seem to be a few in Banff, AB – an area I visited only once, but adored and may visit again – but didn’t notice the bridges built specially for animals. Is this a good idea, one that is viable for both the animals and the humans that want them there? The answer is a definite yes.
First, there is the obvious danger of having animals crossing highways. Several die attempting this, or cause accidents in the locations where they try to cross. Canadians know very well how damaging a moose can be – even without ever having been in an accident with one – because those who have made a point of telling everyone; if you smash into one, depending on the type of vehicle you own, the moose might not even have much harm done to it and you may need to buy a whole new vehicle... if you survive. Yes, it’s that bad. Of course, if you own a van or SUV, the moose will almost surely die, but your vehicle will still have a very large sum of money needed to repair it, if it is at all possible to salvage it.
Of course, the danger is not only when moose are involved. In Jasper, AB, deer are known to take their sweet little time to cross a road, often blocking it for hours at a time, causing traffic jams and making tourists upset for not being able to get out of the city to visit other areas of gorgeous Alberta. Mother bears are extremely protective of their little ones and I dare you to step out of your car if you come between them. You may not survive. (And yes, there are several bears there. The city has garbages that are bear-proof for a reason!)
That being said, these bridges have been built with very obvious reasons behind them, including financial ones. The costs associated with animal kills and car damage in the US alone is estimated at $8 billion per year. The cost of building theses bridges is a minute fraction and is clearly a financially sound idea. Furthermore, they are quite pleasing to the eyes; most are decorated with plants and trees, making them look like part of the scenery (this must surely be to encourage the animals to use them).
The first ones were built in France in the 1950s. The reason? Several of the animals killed at highway crossing points are endangered and they were looking for a way to protect them. They not only build bridges; they also have several underpasses, which are used by amphibians, badgers and other small animals. We should not forget the human lives saved as well.
All these reasons far outweigh the cost of building a bridge, and are an excellent idea.
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Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)