Be on the look-out for an orphaned moose calve. Photo by Marcie Welsh

Sympathy for moose

We’ve been covering the story of the orphaned moose calves whose mother was killed by a motor vehicle on Highway 3, last week.

We rooted for the Conservation Officer Service and wildlife rescue volunteer Colleen Bailey and their heroic efforts to save the calves, only to learn that one of them got hit by a vehicle on Saturday and had to be euthanized by a conservation officer.

I mean come on.

Nature doesn’t work the way it does in a Disney movie, I understand this, and we were all hoping for a disney-esque ending but what we’re getting looks more like a French film noir; pointless, bizarre and needlessly tragic. Nature is cruel, but it’s not that cruel.

As more people move to the Elk Valley and the region turns into a destination for travelers, maybe the government should be looking into ways of making the highways safer for both two and four-legged creatures.

Up in Banff National Park, a series of tunnels and overpasses along the Trans-Canada Highway have reportedly reduced the number of wildlife vehicle collisions by approximately 80 per cent.

There had been concerns that funneling wildlife across a few bridges and tunnels would give predators an inordinate advantage, but research has shown that this is not the case.

We might look to use a similar system here in the Elk Valley. From 2004 to 2012, Highway 3 from Fort Steele to the Alberta border had the highest elk and deer mortality rates in the province.

The government has installed wildlife detection systems on Highway 3, which use sensors to identify large wildlife approaching the shoulder of the highway. When a large animal is detected, the system triggers flashing lights on a warning sign to alert drivers of the potential hazard ahead.

But I wonder if this system is actually reducing the number of collisions. The signs are always flashing, the elk or deer are rarely visible, and I worry that drivers might be lulling themselves into a false sense of security.

The local business community should come to realize that our large mammals are assets. Over the last couple of years that I’ve lived in the area, seeing a deer or an elk grazing in a yard has become a humdrum experience but most people – even most Canadians – can go their whole lives without seeing anything larger than a squirrel. They tune in to watch nature shows that feature large animals because humans feel a kinship with these creatures.

I see two options moving forward. We can wait for natural selection to weed out the more careless animals until we have species of ungulates whose ability to jaywalk is built into their very genetic code, or we can do something about it.

There’s also one more orphaned moose calf out there, so watch your speed and call or text 250-919-6207 if you see it around.

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