At first glance, they look like mistakes, these bridges arched over highways with no connecting roads and grass and dirt stretched over the bridge. But these bridges have nothing to do with traditional traffic. These bridges are there for the animals.
Called animal bridges, wildlife crossings or ecoducts, these bridges allow animals to cross from one side of a highway or busy road to the other safely. They're becoming increasingly common in habitat conversation efforts, particularly when an established road is already bisecting the natural land area. The bridges are healthy not only for the animals but also for the drivers, as they decrease risk of collision with an animal or with another car (in an effort to swerve away from the animals). These collisions are devastating and they cost the U.S. $8 billion a year in damages.
But the U.S. didn't come up with the concept of the animal bridge. That credit goes to France, who built their first bridge in the 1950s with the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany following soon after.
In the largest ecoduct project, an area near the Crailo with over 600 tunnels installed beneath major and minor roads in the Netherlands, has been instrumental in helping revitalize the European Badger. Alberta's Banff National Park installed vegetated overpasses for the safe passage of bears, moose, deer, wolves and elk over the Trans-Canada Highway. They've installed 24 wildlife crossings since 1978 and the results have been positive. Since then, the United States has gotten on board with the project, installing thousands of these small bridges over the past 30 years in Montana, Massachusetts, Colorado, California and Florida. The Human Society reports that this has made a difference in the native populations of mountain goats, spotted salamanders, bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Florida panther, one of the most endangered species on earth.
1. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
2. The Netherlands
3. B38 – Birkenau, Germany
4. Scotch Plains, New Jersey, USA
5. E314 in Belgium
6. Highway A50 in The Netherlands
7. Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana, USA
8. The Borkeld, The Netherlands
9. Interstate 78, Watchtung Reservation, New Jersey, USA
10. Near Keechelus Lake, Washington, USA (rendering, target 2014)
12. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Credit: Twisted Sifter