What Cougars Do on Highways

What do cougars do when they reach the highway? Sometimes they cross it right away and other times they like to sit on it for a while. This video taken by a thermal camera on Highway 3 in British Columbia near Elko shows that occasionally the cats like to take in their surroundings before moving on. Knowing the potential hazard that exists when wildlife makes its way onto roads, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in British Columbia (TranBC) installed two Wildlife Detection Systems between Cranbrook and the Alberta border to help reduce collisions, human injury and animal fatalities.

The video, which is sped up, revealed that the cat actually sat in the middle of the road for over three minutes. The thermal cameras pick up on the heat signatures coming from the animals and work with radar sensors which then alert drivers to the presence of wildlife with flashing roadside signs. The flashing signs, which continue to flash for several minutes after detecting an animal, give the driver enough advance warning to slow down in time thus averting a potential tragedy. TranBC says it is not uncommon for drivers to see the flashing signs, but no wildlife which may be gone by the time the driver approaches.

The system has been in use for about three months now and is installed at two sites covering nine kilometers where large populations of wildlife are known to be. It was tested before being officially put into use for travelers and will continue to be monitored by TranBC to determine how effective it is at reducing vehicle collisions with wildlife. If proven successful they will consider installing more at other wildlife hot spots around the province.

It would be great to see this type of technology become standard practice, along with wildlife crossing or bridges, at wildlife hot spots all over North America and, especially in areas where cougars face a high mortality rate from vehicles. Hopefully transportation departments will consider these tools as the norm one day soon and include them as standard practice when planning for roads and highways.

13 thoughts on “What Cougars Do on Highways

    • It most definitely is! Even though it’s early stages it seems like this could be a more realistic for areas where building wildlife crossings is not an option. I hope that it does catch on…I think Florida could especially benefit from this to help their panther they have so many deaths due to vehicles & so few of the cats left.

      • Yes, really interesting and useful technology…could be adapted for other places/animals too. Great post, thanks : )

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    • The Florida Panther was the first that came to mind definitely! According to this link It looks like the system has been in use since 2012? I wonder how successful it has been, it seems that more & more are killed every year. I read something like 41 were killed, 30 by vehicles, in 2015. It would be great to see it in more areas perhaps.. Of course growing human population, development & ranchers taking a toll on these cats doesn’t help. This is good resource on them http://www.floridapanthernet.org/index.php/pulse/#.V6Zi_q5Y8Ut

      • I guess it’s a complicated situation in Florida, as in other US states with mountain lions. There’s some resistance to their conservation in the first place. One other initiative for Florida I think is out-crossing them with closely-related cats, maybe from Texas if I remember correctly?

      • It will likely get more so even if the solutions are straight forward as it means people will be the ones to have to make changes to accommodate.

        While they did bring in females from Texas to help with inbreeding etc.. & it was considered successful I read that they would probably have to do it again at some point. It does speaks to the importance of having wildlife corridors to connect them to other more suited territory .

        There is a push to get protection for the cats all across the USA which I guess would ultimately help the Florida panther to. Mountain Lion Foundation along with a number of other organizations were behind this http://www.mountainlion.org/newsstory.asp?news_id=1725

    • It is a great idea, it will be interesting to see how it runs long term out in BC.

      Probably the biggest barrier would be funding for these type of projects, however in the long run it can save lives, money & wildlife – I read somewhere that it cost more money to clean up road kill than prevent it!

      There are always was to help these projects along, I would start by inquiring with your local or state transportation department, the more people that speak up can only help & who knows maybe they have already been considering it now they just need that final push.

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