Crossing Paths: Our Five Themes
Transportation impacts our wildlife in diverse ways. Cars, trains, planes, and boats all shape the ecosystems that they fragment. We’ve divided our campaign into five key themes, so we can convey how transportation challenges Canadian wildlife.
With over a million kilometres of roads in Canada, this theme generated the most content with our photographers by far. Animal deaths are caused by roads when vehicles hit them, and when the roads fragment and degrade their habitat. Over one million large mammals are killed on roads in North America. Certain species are more vulnerable to the impacts of roads and highways, such as grizzly bears, which reproduce slowly already. Roads interrupt their ability to find mates, which further reduces birth rates.
We all know what it’s like to drive down the highway and to shield our eyes from the animals on the side of the road, killed by a vehicle collision. Our photographers captured these moments first hand.
“When I reflected on the images I have captured over the years on this topic, what stood out for me is the vast range of species that struggle with our transportation infrastructure, with massive impacts,” CCPC photographer Isabelle Groc said. “For example, in the White Lake Basin of the South Okanagan in B.C., vehicle traffic kills 400 to 500 rattlesnakes per year.”
“At this pace, the already threatened rattlesnake will be locally extinct in under 100 years.”
For this theme, we’ve partnered with the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program. The WCPP seeks to reduce wildlife collisions through outreach and education. To take a look at their extensive education material, click here.
Like roads, trains disturb wildlife by fragmenting their habitats and direct strikes. Trains can introduce exotic species to habitats, further disrupting ecosystems. Deer, elk, and black bears are the large mammals most often killed on railways. Owls are easily disoriented by train lights, and are often hit as a result. Railway impacts are severe, but hard to track. Deaths from trains are less visible and less studied than roadkill.
Some of Canada’s most charismatic species are marine mammals. Humpbacks, killer whales, sea lions, and otters are just some of the species that call our oceans home, and that home is getting noisy. Marine traffic migrates through Canadian waters daily, creating vast acoustic disturbances and high risks of vessel collisions. As the numbers of ships increase, so too the hazards that aquatic life must face. Canada has multiple economic projects underway that will vastly increase the amount of shipping traffic in our ocean. This is a threat that will balloon by the end of the decade.
We’ve partnered with Marine Education and Research Society, an organization of scientists and educators dedicated to marine conservation. Their educational outreach helps inform boaters of the hazards of wildlife strikes by vessels and entanglements. You can help MERS further their objectives by donating, submitting humpback images to further their research, and more.
Aviation is essential to our modern life, but that isn’t without consequences. Wildlife strikes from transportation happen on land, water, and in the air, too. Every year the number of birds and mammals killed by planes increases, with that number peaking in 2019 at 2,043 bird strikes and 108 mammal strikes by planes in Canada. Most strikes occur during the takeoff and landing phase.
Similar to the hazards that wildlife in our oceans face, freshwater wildlife faces significant dangers from boating, whether that’s from strikes, impacts to the water quality, or destruction of their habitat. Motor propellers wound fish, strike birds and mammals, and damage aquatic vegetation. This vegetation loss has cascading effects for the wildlife that depends on them for food and shelter. Wakes from boats create surface disturbances that lead to coastline erosion and turbidity, which decreases water clarity and quality.
For this theme, we’ve partnered with Living Lakes Canada, a charitable non-profit organization that works to empower community-based water monitoring throughout Canada. LLC sends free monitoring kits to citizens throughout the country, so you can help monitor lake vitals like temperature, biodiversity, and invasive species. You can visit them here for more information.