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Posted: September 12, 2021

Trail cams showcase wildlife activity in corridor 

NCC provides update on Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada, the Miistakis Institute and the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute last month announced a partnership project to monitor wildlife movement across Highway 3 through the Crowsnest Pass.

The data gathered through this program will be used to inform future wildlife management strategies and reduce the amount of animal and vehicle collisions.

Highway 3 is situated within a low-elevation valley where opportunities for wildlife movement are limited due to roads, development and human activity. Wildlife that attempt to cross the highway risk mortality and injury and pose a significant safety concern for people that live in and travel through the region.

Besides the risk to human and animal life, collisions along the highway also include costs for damaged vehicles, hospitalizations and highway cleanup. According to AMA, these collisions are one of the leading causes of comprehensive damage claims to vehicles, with the average claim topping $8,000.

This multi-year program, called Linking Landscapes, will utilize wildlife cameras that have been installed throughout the Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor in the Crowsnest Pass and includes Rock Creek, on the eastern edge of the wildlife corridor.

These cameras are triggered by movement and work 24 hours per day in all light conditions.

Seventeen local volunteers in the Crowsnest Pass are involved in the project. Each has been assigned specific cameras to help collect images and identify species.

This camera trap project will use WildTrax, an online tool developed by the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, for image storage and review. 

Monitoring wildlife movements with camera traps will help better understand future conservation and stewardship needs, which will, in turn, result in maintaining healthy wildlife populations in the area. By pinpointing the areas of highest use, this data will also generate information leading to recommended strategies in mitigating animal and vehicle collisions on the highway.

Almost all of the wildlife species in the foothills and mountain regions of Alberta use this corridor, including ungulates (elk, deer, moose and bighorn sheep) and carnivores (bear, wolf,  wolverine and cougar).

Photos can be found here.

“This camera trap project is an important step in expanding our understanding of how wildlife use the Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor. By determining what species are crossing the highway, where they’re moving, and at what times of year we can make better recommendations on how to mitigate wildlife and vehicle collisions, which will make the Crowsnest Pass a safer place for people and for animals,” stated Tom Lynch-Staunton, Regional Vice President of Nature Conservancy of Canada.

“Remote cameras are a great way to monitor wildlife and engage local community in conservation science. We can learn so much about how wildlife is using the landscape. But the number of images can quickly become over whelming – the public can meaningful contribute here by classifying images to species,” added Tracy Lee of Miistakis Institute.

“”I think living in the mountains we have such a responsibility to wildlife.  Knowing there are so few throughways for them I was thrilled when NCC notified our community of the camera trap project.  I get to help collect the data that will inform good decisions going forward and I am able to go outside to a new place with such purpose and learn more about my own neck of the woods. It’s a win-win,” said Monica Zyla, project volunteer.

Development in the pass has created challenges for wildlife movement. This has affected animal populations by limiting genetic diversity, increasing mortality rates and impacting the ability to migrate. The Jim Prentice Wildlife Corridor initiative will ensure that open, undeveloped areas will remain in order to facilitate wildlife movement.

Not all cameras are located on NCC land; the organization is working with multiple partners and landowners to make this project happen.

Mitigation (e.g. fencing and wildlife-crossing structures) can help reduce the risk for both humans and wildlife. Studies in Banff National Park indicate that road impacts on wildlife can be effectively and practically reduced through investment in road-mitigation infrastructure that helps wildlife cross safely.

Funders on this camera trap project include Canadian Pacific, Canadian Western Bank, TC Energy and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

The Crowsnest Pass on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Brent Calver/Nature Conservancy of Canada

Photos submitted by The Nature Conservancy of Canada

The Nature Conservancy of Canada


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