An article I read recently, entitled “Hedgehogs not road hogs” illustrated that France is leading Europe in its practical efforts to reduce the slaughter of wild animals on its roads and highways.
Every year, an estimated 29 million mammals are killed on roads in Europe.
France has long history in addressing the slaughter of wild animals by vehicle traffic; it built the first animal bridge over a major road in 1960. It has continued these efforts with a plan to build a total of 119 dedicated bridges over the “Autoroute du Sol”, the country’s main north-south artery. Hedgehogs not road hogs will benefit.
Other countries are also addressing this major environmental issue. Wildlife bridges have become popular from Canada to Australia. Sweden is building “Renducts” to help migrating reindeer, and Germany has built more than 80 wildlife crossings, which have helped to protect the grey wolf. “Green” campaigners have approved but have added, “Fewer cars on the road would be better still”.
A study by Vinci, a French motorway operator, found that between 2011 and 2015, each of its green bridges was used annually, on average, by 1,086 red deer, 150 wild boar, 104 roe deer, 48 foxes, 8 badgers, 4 weasels, 1 hedgehog and 1 wolf. They also found that smaller mammals and reptiles prefer underpasses; on average, 189 badgers, 37 weasels, 37 genets, and 5 fire salamanders, among others, used those tunnels. Hedgehogs not road hogs.
Early versions of these bridges and tunnels were rudimentary, but later models are much more sophisticated. One, currently under construction near Chagny, in Burgundy, is deluxe. It’s 25 meters wide, complete with a pond for frogs and other amphibians, opaque wooden-fenced sides to shield the passing critters from the glare of headlights, and carefully laid-out piles of rocks, branches and landscape vegetation. Pedestrians are banned on pain of a hefty fine.
It is an initiative, and a recognition that we humans are not the only important inhabitants of this Earth, that holds out hope for an environment that can sustain all creatures, including us, into the future. Hedgehogs not road hogs!