An Issue of Data
In 2003, a Transport Canada report estimated that 4 to 8 collisions between large animals and vehicles occur every hour in Canada. These accidents, although rarely resulting in loss of human lives, are highly costly at an estimated $200,000,000 annually. Unfortunately, it is impossible to get a complete picture of this issue because data on the occurrence of these accidents remains extremely incomplete. In fact, it’s estimated that as much as 50% of animal-vehicle collisions go unreported.
In a follow-up report released in 2006, Transport Canada proposed a solution to the problem of underreported wildlife collisions. The report states, “new research points to the need for improved methods for recording animal-vehicle collisions... The literature notes that data collection is often done by two and sometimes three different organizations within States and Provinces,” (Transport Canada 2006). To solve the issue, the report suggested a standardized model similar to a system created by the British Columbia Transport Department known as the The Wildlife Accident Reporting System (WARS).
Since this report was published over 15 years ago, the number of animal-vehicle collisions across Canada has steadily increased, and no national effort to create a standardized method of accident data collection has been developed.
Lack of data surrounding animal-vehicle collisions makes the issue difficult to properly manage. Without the full information on when and where the collisions are happening, it is impossible to know what infrastructure should be improved with mitigation measures such as signage, fencing and crossing structures. This is why Watch for Wildlife program founder, Wanda Baxter and Sierra Club have worked to include the implementation of a National Wildlife Collision Reporting System within the Green Budget Coalition Recommendations for the 2020 federal budget.
Baxter supports the standardized reporting system as an essential step in solving the issue of wildlife-vehicle collisions. She states, "When I began looking into the problem of wildlife-vehicle collisions in Nova Scotia and Canada, it became obvious early on that there was not enough data or an efficient system for collecting wildlife collision data. Canada is not tracking wildlife vehicle collisions adequately, and without this data we can't protect drivers or wildlife from continuing carnage on our roads. We need a national strategy for reducing collisions and collecting the necessary data. This recommendation is an important step toward getting national attention to this issue and the need for federal leadership."
What is the Green Budget Coalition?
The Green Budget Coalition is a collection of 22 environmental advocacy groups across Canada which come together to create an annual report of recommendations for the upcoming years federal budget. The report presents an analysis of how Canada’s federal budget can account for solutions to pressing environmental issues. Representing over 600,000 Canadians, The Green Budget Coalition has been working for the past 20 years to make sure the federal government is efficiently funding sustainability solutions.
This past Wednesday, the recommendations for the 2020 budget were released with four main themes: climate emergency action, sustainable agriculture, regulation of toxins and pesticides, and investment in conservation and biodiversity. In this final category, the National Wildlife Collision System can be found as a complementary recommendation.
The Cost and Value of a National Wildlife Collision System
The Green Budget Coalition states that the collision data collected with the new system would be “used to plan collision mitigation measures including infrastructure, and to create habitat connectivity plans.”(GBC 2019) With a recommended investment of $4.5 million over the course of 3 years, money could be allocated to the Department of Climate Change Canada and Transport Canada. The departments would work with provinces and territories to develop a national standard for collecting animal collision information. When considering the $200 million a year that animal collisions cost in Canada, the creation of a wildlife collision database could result in significant prevention of these losses and better protection of wildlife connectivity.
Watch for Wildlife is proud to see that our understanding of collision prevention is gaining traction on the national stage. This complex issue can only be mediated once we have the data to know where to look. We are hopeful that the National Wildlife Collision System will come to fruition when the federal budget is presented to the House of Commons this coming spring and ultimately result in a future with less wildlife-vehicle accidents across Canada.
Transport Canada 2003 Report https://www.wildlifecollisions.ca/docs/e063e9492a82fbb7.pdf
Transport Canada 2006 Report
Green Budget Coalition
(National Wildlife Collision Reporting System Recommendation can be found on page 49)