Under this N.S. highway, deer find safe passage away from cars
$1.29M tunnel meant to prevent collisions between vehicles, deer
As highway crews continue to work on the twinning of Highway 101, there has also been a lot of work happening under the highway.
A new wildlife tunnel aimed at keeping deer off the road surface should be completed before winter.
"It's to reduce the number of wildlife collisions to increase human safety on the highway," said Lisa Doucette, a resource scientist with the wildlife division of Nova Scotia's Department of Lands and Forestry.
"It will also reduce the likelihood of wildlife mortalities on the highway."
The new concrete tunnel, built at a cost of $1.29 million, is located between Falmouth and Hantsport. While it's not the first in Nova Scotia, it is easily the biggest.
At 3.1 metres wide, 3.7 metres high and 50 metres long, it's the only one specifically focused on safe deer passage. When complete, it will have an atrium-like structure in the middle to allow light into the tunnel.
"Deer will not use underpasses that are dark and confined," said Doucette. "Many other species will be using the underpass including coyotes, bears, skunks, raccoons and porcupines — which we all know have high mortality rates on our highways."
Three kilometres of fencing will be erected over the next few weeks, with 750 metres going along all four sides of the highway that will lead animals into the tunnel area. Currently there is loose hay along the bottom of the tunnel, but vegetation will be planted.
There have been many collisions between deer and vehicles along the stretch of highway near the tunnel. The hope is the tunnel will make for a healthier ecosystem for the animals to thrive in.
"It allows for more connectivity between habitats," said Doucette. "The wildlife will be able to safely cross under the highway so it won't become a barrier, which means they won't get stuck in fragmented habitats which could increase competition in food resources for them."
The wildlife tunnel will have trail cameras installed to monitor the species that travel through the structure. It will also have barriers in place to discourage ATV access.
A much smaller tunnel was built under Highway 104 in Antigonish County in 2013.
Doucette said there are plans for widened bridges in seven areas of the highway twinning currently underway on the 104. That will include paths for wildlife on either side of watercourses to allow deer and moose to pass through.