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All over the world, animal habitats bump up against human development. Where these two worlds collide, animals almost never fare well. Highways, where humans speed by large tracts of natural habitat like missiles of doom, are especially dangerous for wild creatures. They can also be deadly, not just for individual animals but for entire species. The Florida panther, for example, has such a low population that each time one is killed on a highway, it is a catastrophic loss.
There is hope, however, in a new way of helping animals cross through highway areas unharmed. Wildlife overpasses give animals a way to cross highways without risking their lives. These look and work like bridges but are usually covered with grass and trees that make animals like deer feel welcome. The cars drive through a tunnel under the bridges. Fences along the top edges keep the animals safe.
These overpasses also connect habitats, so along with deer, the coyotes who hunt them can cross. This allows both species to have a larger range, which also helps their long-term survival. To the animals in these habitats, the overpasses may be like an extra safety net that helps them survive a drought. The bridges are especially important for animals that migrate. For centuries, animals like elk and buffalo migrated on trails that still, now, lead right up to the edges of major highways. With the help of these bridges, migrating animals can still follow their long-used paths unharmed.
In some cases, these overpasses benefit humans directly as well. In these cases, the overpasses are part of a green space or park that people use for cycling, backpacking, or jogging. The overpasses give humans access to areas they may not have been able to see but also provide safety for animals.
The next time you are traveling on a highway, keep a lookout for a wildlife passage. With attention to how our lives affect the natural world, we can find clever solutions, like wildlife passages, that help animals and improve our lives, too.
Not all wildlife accommodations for highways are overpasses. In some cases, certain species are so important that underpasses or underground tunnels are built. In Florida, two such underpasses help turtles, snakes, and alligators that often migrate from one body of water to another. Since these creatures do not have much speed, crossing a highway for them is even more deadly than it is for swift animals like deer. Working like a large funnel, these underpasses usually require a barricade or fence alongside the highway that forces animals toward a tunnel. Aquatic turtles especially benefit from these tunnels as they lay eggs in holes dug in dry ground, away from the lake they live in.
Which line best illustrates that the overpasses will provide "long-term survival"?
Fences along the top edges keep the animals safe.
These overpasses also connect habitats, so along with deer, the coyotes who hunt them can cross.
For centuries, animals like elk and buffalo migrated on trails...
With the help of these bridges, migrating animals can still follow their long-used paths unharmed.