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Want fewer highway deaths? Build the animals some bridges

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When animals and cars collide, the cars usually win

Growing up in rural Iowa, roadkill was basically a fact of life. Skunks were the most dreaded, for obvious reasons, but cars mowed down raccoons, squirrels, pets, and — sometimes fatally for drivers and passengers — deer. Roads often pass through ecosystems where a lot of animals make their homes. Which is why, when Montana's department of transportation wanted to build a new road, they built a land bridge for wildlife.

wildlife are generally the losers in collisions with carsThe land was on the Flathead reservation, controlled by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The tribes wanted to preserve the area's wildlife, which are generally the losers in collisions with cars, according to a report by Orion Magazine. Highways split habitats in ways that are convenient for humans, but not for the areas' animals. Either they must learn how to cross the highways or they stay imprisoned in a small area, where they have less food and fewer options for mates.

It's not just the little animals, either. Four grizzly bears were among the thousands of animals that died between 1998 and 2010 on the Flathead reservation. So to assuage the tribes' concerns, 41 underpasses and overpasses for fish and wildlife were built. This model may lead to a more wildlife-friendly future for roads, since other highway departments are apparently studying the Montana example.