Innumerable amounts of animals are struck and killed each year on long stretches of highways. With no place to cross, animals take their chances, darting out into traffic and at times causing serious accidents. The environmentally-friendly Germany has an innovative solution to that problem: Animal-only bridges, and they’re spending millions on them.
MSN Now reported on Sept. 24 that 100 so-called “green bridges” are planned over the next decade. The bridges will span major highways and canal systems in Germany, giving animals an opportunity to cross safely.
Forester Gerhard Klesen works for the Ruhr Regional Association, a group responsible for regional planning and infrastructure for the Ruhr region. Klesen has been advocating for animal-only bridges for nearly a decade.
In addition to the accidents caused by animals crossing busy motorways, Klesen said man-made barriers restrict the natural movement of animals, who are then forced to live in small sections of land. The results of condensing animal populations together is a limitation on diversity and an increase in disease.
Speaking of one such area in Germany, Klesen said, “The area of land east of the motorway at Schermbeck is much smaller than that on the western side. That's led to a decrease in species diversity on the eastern side.”
In 2012, the Schermbeck green bridge was opened. Humans are not allowed to cross the bridge, and could be fined for doing so.
Klesen said the bridges are a tough sell however, on both politicians, because of their cost, but on animals too, who are hesitant at first to use them.
“It usually takes a year before an animal dares to cross the green bridge,” Klesen said. “One red stag traversed the bridge just three days after it was opened though.”
Quite a bit of forethought goes into the bridge planning. Special barriers direct animals up and over the bridges, which are gently sloped. Individual terrain is put in – trees for larger animals, grasses for smaller game and sand for insects to traverse through.
“There are strips of sand just for insects, as well as grass, shrubs and other vegetation providing food and shelter to some of the smaller creatures,” said Klesen.
Thirty-five such bridges are in existence in Germany now, but over 100 more are planned.