Highway Wilding


Highway Wilding is a collaborative project between Parks Canada, the Western Transportation Institute, Miistakis Institute, Wilburforce Foundation and Woodcock Foundation with a focus of getting wildlife safely "across the road" in Banff National Park. The Trans-Canada Highway- or TCH- bisects the Park through the very heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and has long been recognized as a lethal barrier to wildlife through collisions with vehicles and by reducing animals' abilities to move through the landscape to find suitable habitat, food and mates. However, more than 25 years ago, efforts were undertaken to reduce the effects of the Trans-Canada Highway on wildlife within Banff National Park through the construction of wildlife overpasses (vegetated structures designed to allow wildlife to move over highways), underpasses (bridge structures that enable animals to pass underneath highways), and fencing designed to keep wildlife off of the highway right-of-way.

In addition to the construction of the wildlife crossing structures, Dr. Tony Clevenger and the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) have been carrying out research and monitoring on these structures to learn what sort of characteristics are important to enable passage by animals that are sensitive to their habitat being fragmented. These species include grizzly and black bears, wolves, lynx and wolverine. The results of the Highway Wilding project are critical to informing how highways should be best designed with both people and wildlife in mind.

There are four primary objectives to Highway Wilding:
1. Collect data on the conservation value of wildlife crossing structures in Banff National Park. An important aspect of the research is to evaluate crossings by wolverine across the Trans-Canada Highway and their response to the newly-constructed wildlife crossing structures. There is little to no information anywhere in North America on whether this iconic subalpine and alpine species are adversely impacted by four-lane highways or if they will use the crossing structures.
2. Develop science-based guidelines for designing effective wildlife crossing structures and other practices to keep wildlife safe alongside transportation projects across Canada and North America.
3. Present the scientific findings in major international journals, books, workshops and conferences on transportation, conservation and ecology.
4. Increase professional understanding and general public awareness of the Banff wildlife crossings to enable similar wildlife crossing structures and practices for highways throughout Canada and across North America.

It is critical to communicate the findings of Highway Wilding to a number of audiences, and Miistakis is responsible for the outreach and education component of the project. Our goal is to increase transportation agency understanding and community awareness so that other busy roads in Canada benefit from the findings of Highway Wilding. This will allow other communities to develop sustainable transportation practices that are designed with both humans and wildlife in mind. We have created a communications strategy that will guide our outreach program. The strategy is guided by the following goals:

• Trans-Canada Highway wildlife crossing structures are viewed by decision-makers as good investments for motorist safety and wildlife conservation;
• Wildlife crossing structures and practices are more fully understood and supported by local communities, visitors, people driving on the Trans-Canada Highway; and
• Information from the Banff project’s research and monitoring are transferred and then applied in other regions and local communities by transportation and natural resource agencies.

For more information, please visit the Highway Wilding website (

Miistakis Institute works on many different types of projects which have been organized into eight research areas. By expanding on the symbols below you may view projects in that research area, as well as one that identifies projects initiated by Miistakis.

Transportation Ecology

GIS for Conservation

Ecosystem Services

Sustainable Landscapes and Communities

Private Land Conservation

Citizen Science for Conservation

Wildlife Management

Market-Based Instruments

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