Wildlife underpasses installed at Kootenay National Park

Highway 93 into Kootenay National Park now has some added safety nets in place to prevent wildlife from getting killed.

Parks officials hope multi-million dollar measures will prevent animals from getting killed

Highway 93 into Kootenay National Park now has some added safety nets in place to prevent deer, elk, bears, wolves and other wild animals from getting killed while trying to cross the road.

A new wildlife underpass and other protection measures are being unveiled at Kootenay National Park.

Thousands of vehicles and animals use the road every year and Parks officials are hopeful the new animal underpasses — three large tunnels under the highway with about five kilometres of fencing — will be a success.

"Even though we do see animals crossing highways, the population as a whole can be separated on either side of them," said Trevor Kinley, a project manager with Parks Canada. "By putting wildlife crossing structures in, we can get animals from one side of the highway to the other, or get the populations linked."

The idea is not new: There are 40 similar underpasses and overpasses that were built in the 1990s in neighbouring Banff National Park.

"What we've found in that time is roughly 150,000 animals have been recorded crossing the Trans-Canada
Highway through the wildlife crossings. We've had really good success with that so we are pretty confident we will have success here in Kootenay Park," Kinley said.

Parks Canada will continue to monitor how well the new measures work, but says drivers shouldn't notice a visible difference.

"To the driver, it just looks like it ever did. For the wildlife, there are places for the wildlife to get under safely."

The three new underpasses and fencing together cost almost $5 million. Kinley says it may seem like a lot of money to spend to help wildlife cross the road, but it pales in comparison to the cost of recovering crumpled vehicles and dead animals on the highway.

With files from the CBC's Bob Keating