Highways are a dangerous place for not only humans, but for a lot of animals as well. Dawson Road Maintenance (DRM) just wrapped up a culvert cleaning program that was designed to make highways safer for motorists, local badgers and other small wildlife along Highway 97 in Service Areas 16 and 17.
Roger Packham, a retired biologist with the B.C. government, has been working closely with the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) and DRM over the last few months, creating a culvert cleaning program that aims to benefit badgers.
“Badgers are no different than most animals; despite their ability to swim across rivers like the South Thompson or Fraser, they don’t like getting their feet wet. Over time, culverts can become blocked, damming water within the culverts, making them less suitable to use to travel underneath a highway. This forces badgers, and other animals such as squirrels and weasels, to cross the highway instead of using the culverts,” said Packham. (Badgers aren’t picky when it comes to the size of the culvert for their transportation needs, but Packham has found that they typically travel in culverts ranging between 450 to 900 millimeters in diameter.)
Packham has been conducting badger research in the Service Areas since 2001. Since 2001, 106 badgers have died on roads in Service Area 16 and 17. Packham estimates that there is somewhere between 250 to 300 badgers remaining in B.C., a number low enough to qualify them as endangered species.
“Something had to be done. We couldn’t keep going down this path,” said Packham.
In the summer of 2021, Packham conducted culvert assessments between 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, while simultaneously digging out any culverts he could with a shovel. Culverts that required more attention were identified for later treatments. In the spring of 2022, DRM approached and received funding from MoTI to clear our culvert outlets with an excavator. To assist with that undertaking, DRM hired both Packham and New Era Falling from the Canim Lake Band to help carry out the project.
The Canim Lake Band had an excavator operator and two labourers available to help out with the culverts that needed more than a shovel to clear away the debris, while DRM provided traffic control to keep the teams safe.
DRM will continue to play a big role in badger safety moving forward, even with the cleared culverts.
“Anytime a badger gets struck on the road – or any animal for that matter- it’s our duty to go clear the highway to make it safe again, but we also need to collect the animal as well. We will bring the badger back to the nearest yard and call the Conservation Officer so they can record data from the animal,” said Chris Rottluff, DRM SA 16 Operations Manager.
Providing a safe passage underneath highways is not only good for the wildlife’s safety, but for the motorist as well.