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More wildlife crossings to reach WNC

A new initiative to protect animals and their habitats from highways.

Example of an underpass created to help wildlife cross highways safely.

Example of an underpass that allows wildlife to safely cross busy highways.

Photo from NCDOT Traffic Cam

Take a drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a furry friend. White-tailed deer and black bears are frequent dwellers in Asheville’s roadways — and a new initiative from the NCDOT is helping them travel more safely.

Through a newly passed Memorandum of Understanding, the NCDOT is collaborating with The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to create overpasses, underpasses, culverts, and fences to keep wildlife off of highways.

Why does Asheville need this?
Crossing structures will deter animals from roads, which are one of the leading causes of habitat destruction. But they’ll also give travelers peace of mind. From 2017 to 2019, the NCDOT reported 500 vehicle and wildlife collisions in Buncombe County, resulting in $1,615,550 of damage. Construction of crossing structures will work to bring that number down.

Goals of the initiative

  • Decrease the impact of highways on habitats of wildlife.
  • Create wildlife passage structures allowing animals to travel across highways.
  • Develop methods for evaluating the success of wildlife crossing structures.
  • Create a wildlife vehicle collision data tool to track traffic safety and conservation efforts.

Getting déjà vu?
This isn’t the first time wildlife passageways have been discussed. Back in 2017 and 2018, federal, state, and activist groups met to discuss the problem. Appalachian-based organization Safe Passage Coalition is a group working on the front lines of the issue. Check out ways to support them, including signing the pledge to protect wildlife in the Pigeon River Gorge.

There is currently a wildlife passage along Cold Springs Creek and Harmon Den Road under Interstate 40 in Haywood County. What highways in Asheville do you think could benefit from a wildlife crossing structure? Tell us here.

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