Banff National Park is known around the world for having the safest and most effective wildlife crossings. International and U.S. officials are in Canmore to study the effectiveness of such crossings in the hopes of using them as a model to build their own.

“Banff is undoubtedly the best example in North America and in fact the entire world for integrating wildlife with highways and your community development,” says Bill Ruediger of the United States Forest Service.

The Trans-Canada highway through Banff National Park was once known as the “meat maker” due to the high number of animal-vehicle collisions that occurred there. The 45 km of highway has since been twinned and the design allowed park officials to incorporate 21 underpasses and 2 overpasses so animals can move freely between habitats.

Initially, critics said they didn’t think it could work but a six year monitoring program by park officials now proves they do.

“Between November 1996 and January of this past year, we recorded 41,000 passages by animals coyote size and bigger, and that is at all of the 21 underpasses and 2 overpasses. They are all being used,” says Bruce Leeson of Parks Canada.

U.S. wildlife officials are encouraged by those statistics. They hope this conference will help identify ways and locations they too can adopt crossings for their own use.

“Animals need to move across different landscapes to feed, reproduce and distribute their young,” says Amanda Hardy from Montana State University. “It’s important to maintain those connections for ecosystems to function.”

Bruce Leeson says more crossings are being designed for use when the Trans-Canada highway between Castle Junction and Lake Louise is finally twinned. The G8 Legacy Project is providing $5-million to improve wildlife corridor crossings in the corridor between Banff and the Kananaskis Valley.