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If You Build It, They Will Come

But an overpass for critters?

by Richard 'Mr. Moo' Moore
May 15, 2005

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If You Build It, They Will Come

Interstate 70 through the mountains of Colorado is one of the prettiest drives this side of heaven. If the scenery doesn't take your breath away, the elevation will. To get away from it all in the high country of Colorado, well, it doesn't get much better. I know. Colorado was my home for almost 20 years.

 

There are a few problems with traveling through the mountains. One is the wildlife. Well, the animals WERE there first. But just like the white folk forced the Native Americans off their land, so humans have done that to the animals. Coyotes, lynx, deer, elk and others are feeling the crunch of people moving in and taking their land. And …

There has been an average of one major collision per month over the last ten years on I-70. And those are only the reported accidents. There could be plenty more. Now before you go ballistic on me for putting animals above people, check out the solution that some are proposing.

In order to assist the critters in their reduced and restricted home area, a wildlife overpass is being proposed to the tune of $4.6 million. This overpass will be set up so the critters do not have to cross the busy interstate highway.

The overpass would be one of the first in the United States. One is currently in use in Canada near Alberta. Over the last five years, there has been a reduction of animal vs. auto accidents of 80%. It could be the results of the overpass. Or it could be the results of such a big publicity push that folks are driving more carefully. Either way, the animals gotta be happy and isn't that what it is all about?

The way it works is this: an overpass is built over the highway is made to look like the surrounding landscape. The overpass is built equipped with trees, grass, brush and dirt a plenty. The overpass is shaped like an hourglass as to funnel critters into the fake landscape 150 feet wide and over the highway and deliver them safely and gradually on the other side.

Sorry if I sound a little skeptical. That's a pickup load of cash for a critter crossing. And I'm not sure that it would work. You see, I have experience in the idea of crossing a busy road. I used to work as an elementary school crossing guard. I know how those kids dealt with crossing inside of the lines. If they didn't like the crosswalk they would go down the road about half a block and run across the street. Cars screeching to a halt, horns honking, financial and candy bribes from the traffic guard wouldn't work. No coaxing would get them to come down a cross with the other kids.

What makes these folks in Colorado think that the critters would act any differently than the kids and cross where they should? Would the animals run a mile down the road and cross the highway there? I can see it now. Two deer visiting with each other. "Hey, Charlie, we don't need to cross on the fake forest bridge. Let's go down the interstate to mile marker 178." Screeeeeeeeech. Honk! Thump, thump. Air bags inflate. Car totaled. Critter totaled. Vacation ruined.

(Light comes on overhead) Wait a minute! We could just put in more than one of these overpasses. That would do it.

And even if the bridge did work, what would keep hunters from standing on the other side of the bridge with their oozies ready to bag their limit during season?

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