Project tracks roadkill near Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border

It may sound morbid, but the public is encouraged to safely photograph dead animals along the roadside near the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.

'The roads present a barrier for those animals to cross over the landscape'

Amelia Barnes observes a dead bear near the side of the road. (Bethany-Lynn Walsh)

It may sound morbid, but the public is encouraged to safely photograph dead animals along the roadside near the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.

A new wildlife tracking initiative, the WildPaths Maritimes project, is up and running with the aim of reducing the number of animals that are killed on roads in the area.

"I'm conducting on-foot and driving surveys of roads in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that intersect the Chignecto Isthmus from east to west," said Amelia Barnes, a Dalhousie University student involved in the project.

"I'm out there looking for roadkill, any tracks that are along the side of the road where they might be crossing, and live observations of any animals that might be out there on or beside the road."

The Chignecto Isthmus is a critical space for wildlife.

An aerial view of the Chignecto Isthmus. (Mike Dembeck)

It's a narrow corridor that connects Nova Scotia with the rest of North America and, because it is only 23-kilometres wide, it has become a dangerous area for animals that travel through there.

"The idea of this project is to collect as much information as we can on where are the hot spots of animals getting hit on our roads so we can, hopefully, find solutions that will get them across the road safely," said Paula Noel of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

'There is danger for people travelling in their vehicles'

Noel says those solutions could include fencing, small tunnels or expanding culvert systems to allow animals to pass through instead of crossing a road.

"The roads present a barrier for those animals to cross over the landscape and certainly it's not a nice thing for people either," said Noel. "There is danger for people travelling in their vehicles, particularly with big animals."

While most of the animals Barnes has seen in her five weeks on the job have been porcupines and raccoons, there have also been two bears hit by vehicles. There are plenty of deer and some moose in the area as well.

Amelia Barnes is 'out there looking for roadkill.' (Savannah LeBlanc)

Barnes has been keeping a close eye on 10 roads, including the Trans-Canada Highway.

There are other resources that she has at her disposal.

"I'm going to be looking at a backlog of images from trail cameras the Conservancy has had up for about a year now," said Barnes. "That will help determine which animals are avoiding the roads and which ones are crossing on a more regular basis."

The WildPaths project is using an app called iNaturalist.

Deer tracks along Highway 104. (Amelia Barnes)

Barnes and Noel are encouraging people to get the app on their smartphone and start sending in information and pictures. It will allow project organizers to gain a more accurate picture of the movement of animals near roadways.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has protected 1,200 hectares of land in the Chignecto Isthmus and has projects planned to help secure a permanent wilderness corridor for wildlife in the region.

About the Author

Paul Palmeter

Reporter

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.