A highway with cars and 18 wheel trucks driving on it

Washington Department of Transportation

Crossing Over Danger

New pathways made just for wildlife are saving animals—and people—on highways!

As You Read: Identify the problem that Washington State is trying to solve.

Imagine this. A mountain lion races through the woods. It’s chasing a deer that it hopes will be its next meal. Suddenly, it skids to a stop. Its habitat has been cut in half by a highway. Cars zip past as the mountain lion’s prey escapes across the highway. The mountain lion can either miss out on its next meal or it can risk being struck by a car.

Imagine this. A mountain lion races through the woods. It’s chasing a deer that it hopes will be its next meal. Suddenly, it stops. Its habitat has been cut in half by a highway. Cars zip past as the mountain lion’s prey escapes across the highway. If the mountain lion keeps chasing the deer, it could get struck by a car.

A Safer Highway

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In the United States, there are more than one million car accidents per year that involve wild animals. To help prevent these accidents, some communities are building wildlife crossings.

A wildlife crossing is anything that helps a wild animal safely cross a road. Bridges and tunnels are two popular types of crossings.

In Washington State, the I-90 highway cuts through Snoqualmie (snoh-KWAHL-mee) Pass. The state wanted to keep wildlife that live in the forest there off the road.

In 2009, it began building bridges and tunnels along a 15-mile stretch of highway. Now drivers may be lucky enough to spot a deer, bobcat, black bear, or coyote on an animal bridge!

In the United States, there are more than one million car accidents per year that involve wild animals. To help prevent these accidents, some communities are building wildlife crossings.

A wildlife crossing is anything that helps a wild animal safely cross a road. Bridges and tunnels are two types of crossings.

In Washington State, the I-90 highway cuts through Snoqualmie (snoh-KWAHL-mee) Pass. Wildlife live in the forest there. The state wanted to keep them off the road.

In 2009, the state began building bridges and tunnels along a 15-mile stretch of highway. Now deer, bobcat, black bear, and coyote use the crossings.

Shutterstock.com

These bears in Canada don't have an animal crossing.

The Road Ahead

Patty Garvey-Darda is a wildlife biologist who works with the U.S. Forest Service. She helped plan the bridges and tunnels along I-90.

She says the crossings are already helping animals and humans. Before the crossings, there were many accidents involving animals that were killed. People also got badly hurt. And the crashes blocked highways, which meant trucks couldn’t make deliveries to stores.

But that’s all changed.

“In 2019, we put up fencing along the highway to guide the animals to use crossings,” Garvey-Darda says. “Since that time, not one large animal has been struck by a car!”

Patty Garvey-Darda is a wildlife biologist who works with the U.S. Forest Service. She helped plan the bridges and tunnels along I-90.

She says the crossings are already helping animals and humans. Before the crossings, there were many accidents involving animals. Many animals were killed. People also got badly hurt. And the crashes blocked highways. That meant trucks couldn’t make deliveries to stores. 

“In 2019, we put up fencing along the highway to guide the animals to use crossings,” Garvey-Darda says. “Since that time, not one large animal has been struck by a car!”

Courtesy of Conservation Northwest

These geese have a safe crossing in Washington State.

1. Based on the article, what are some reasons a wild animal might try to cross a highway?

2. How did scientists in Washington State guide wildlife to use the animal crossings they built along the I-90 highway?

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar, “Keeping Critters Safe”?

1. Based on the article, what are some reasons a wild animal might try to cross a highway?

2. How did scientists in Washington State guide wildlife to use the animal crossings they built along the I-90 highway?

3. What is the purpose of the sidebar, “Keeping Critters Safe”?

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