West Kelowna  

New data reveals how mule deer use wildlife crossings on Hwy 97C

3,700 deer cross highway

The potential for at least 3,700 collisions between vehicles and mule deer were avoided on the Okanagan Connector last year, according to new data from the Ministry of Transportation. 

For the first time, the province has compiled a year's worth of data collected at 11 wildlife crossings over and under Highway 97C between West Kelowna and Aspen Grove.

The data has been condensed into a 30 second video, showing crossing locations lightening up slowly through the winter months before picking up in the spring. Once the snow melts, the mass movement of mule deer happens very quickly. 

“Watching those numbers climb really impresses me,” says MoTI wildlife and environmental issues specialist, Leonard Sielecki.

“And this is only showing mule deer – not other types of deer, or other species of wildlife. It means the potential for 3,700 collisions with vehicles was eliminated. These mule deer were not hurt, killed or orphaned – they crossed the highway safely thanks to the crossings made for them.”

To collect the numbers, species specialists sifted through thousands of images captured by wildlife cameras.

“Going through all the images by hand takes time, but it also reveals valuable information beyond sheer numbers. Determining species, age, sex, and the size of herds gives us better understanding of the dynamic of herd movements,” the ministry said.

The province said the project will also reveal ways to improve wildlife crossings. For example, some of the crossings became blocked by heavy snow.

There are plans to pull together data on other species usage of the crossings in the future, most likely continuing with moose next.

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