Dana Livingstone knows the dangers wild animals can pose to drivers on Highway 14 or other highways in and near Sooke.
The 60-year-old wildlife advocate and retired outdoor education specialist from East Sooke has responded to numerous collisions between vehicles and deer and other smaller animals in the four years she’s been in the area.
Some of them have been horrific.
“I’ve found fawns on the side of roads after their mother was struck by a car,” Livingstone said in a recent interview.
“It’s a terrible scenario. The other problem is people honking at deer and not slowing down. This can backfire as they tend to bolt when startled.”
Livingstone and her group, the Wildlife Advocates Collective, is pushing to establish wildlife corridors along Highway 14 and other areas. The group wants to start with the new highway reconstruction project between Connie Road and Glinz Lake Road in Sooke.
The group would like wildlife fencing, under crossings and road sensors to be built to protect wildlife, much like already exists on Highway 4 between Port Alberni and Ucluelet. It has started an online petition to bring attention to the need to protect nature and human life along the Highway 14 corridor.
The provincial government has not responded to the request, but plans for the project include larger culverts to give small animals such as raccoons and amphibians safe passage from one side of the highway to the other.
Wildlife corridors are among a growing number of wildlife bridges and underpasses worldwide that aim to connect fractured habitats.
The corridors help avert some of the billions of animal deaths on the roads every year around the world and counteract the unintended consequences of human infrastructure.
The $85.7-million Highway 14 project includes a 1.4-kilometre alignment, which will see a four-laned with median barrier road.
The 17 Mile Pub will benefit from improved access along the old highway, which will become an extension of Gillespie Road with lower volumes and operating speeds for access into and out of the property. The adjacent commercially zoned lands will have accesses constructed from the new connector road and land cleared in conjunction with the highway regrading. The pub will see a new paved back parking lot adjacent to the new underpass and park and ride parking lot.
According to a Transportation Ministry spokesperson, commuters have been asking for improvements to Highway 14, particularly passing lanes and possible realignments to straighten some of the curvier sections.
The section between Connie Road and Glinz Lake Road (including Gillespie Road intersection) has the highest number of crashes on the Sooke Road corridor.
Kelly Carson, a wildlife advocate and former member of Deer Safe B.C., said building access for wildlife to cross the road is the right thing to do.
“These wildlife corridors work beautifully,” she said.
“I don’t know what the appetite for the Ministry of Transportation would be for wildlife corridors, but it’s time to have a serious discussion about it.”
The Highway 14 project will take two years to complete.