Black bear encounters are a local rite of passage. While always unnerving, they’re especially dangerous on roadways, where high speeds, heavy machinery, and massive mammals mingle perilously.
Just last week, renowned hiker and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Company, Jennifer Pharr Davis, totaled her car when she hit a black bear — thankfully, she and her family are safe. Sadly, the bear was mortally wounded and had to be put to rest at the scene.
The same week, the NC Department of Transportation also announced that it will soon begin replacing aging area bridges near Asheville with ones that help wildlife and reduce collisions. These sorts of wildlife crossings, which use bridges and tunnels, have successfully reduced animal and vehicle fatalities elsewhere in the country, including in Wyoming, Florida, and New Jersey.
Shoring up these wildlife crossings is the primary focus of the Safe Passage Coalition. The Appalachian-based organization is comprised of 20 local, state, federal, and Tribal land managers, who are all working with conservation organizations to enable the safe flow of animals over and under interstate traffic. The coalition is currently working on the I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project, located near the North Carolina-Tennessee border.
Want to advocate for more local wildlife crossings? Check out ways to support Safe Passage’s mission to make roads safer for wildlife and drivers.