Wildlife Conservation Corridors – Practical Coexistence (Pennsylvania)

By Jason Beale

Pennsylvania’s diverse landscape includes 13 ecoregions, trailing only Alaska and Texas (EPA, Level III Mappings). Ranging from Northern Piedmont and Appalachian Forests to Atlantic Coastal Plain, Pennsylvania ranks 5th nationally in outdoor recreation spending, generating almost $30 million in revenue, supporting a quarter of a million jobs (National Recreation Economy Report, 2017).

However, this overshadows unfortunate costs, in the loss of human life, injuries, and property damage due to wildlife and vehicle collisions. Pennsylvania ranks 3rd in the nation for these collisions (4,487), with the average deer collision cost estimated at $4,341 (State Farm Insurance, 2018). Nationwide, wildlife-vehicle collisions account for 200 fatalities, 26,000 injuries, and $8 billion in damages (Huijser et al. 2009).

The good news is that there are functional solutions that Pennsylvania can model in the form of Wildlife (Conservation) Corridors. Primarily employed in the western United States and Canada, these structures can have a dramatic impact in reducing collisions. Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada has seen a 96% decline in deer and elk collisions since their installation. There is a learning curve for wildlife as they must learn to take advantage of them. However, the animals that use corridors have a higher likelihood of surviving to breeding age and teach these behaviors to their young, increasing the effectiveness of Conservation Corridors over time. Given, the long lifespan of these structures, their installations “pay for themselves” over time, as opposed to doing nothing (Huijser et al. 2009). With an increasing populations and Pennsylvania’s diverse habitats, Conservation Corridors are a practical coexistence solution.

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