Archived Outdoors

Report flags wildlife crossing hotspots

Report flags wildlife crossing hotspots

A recently released report from Wildlands Network identifies 20 priority sites for wildlife crossings in North Carolina — including four busy thoroughfares west of Asheville. 

These include: Interstate 40 through the Pigeon River Gorge, U.S. 19 at the Blue Ridge Parkway, I-40 east of Canton and U.S. 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The list also includes I-26 at the Appalachian Trail and I-40 at Kitsuma Peak between Black Mountain and Old Fort. 

Human and wildlife interactions are on the rise on North Carolina’s roadways due to a rapidly growing human population and associated increased pressures from development. From 2017-19, the N.C. Department of Transportation reported nearly 57,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions, resulting in more than $156 million in damages — a gross underestimate that does not account for collisions with small mammals, reptiles and other species.  Wildlife crossing structures can help reduce this toll. 

“Constructing or enhancing wildlife crossing structures can be costly, and the funds to do so come largely from competitive grant programs,” said Dr. Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network’s Chief Scientist. “This means North Carolina needs to be strategic about investing in crossing projects that will have the greatest impact on wildlife and travelers’ safety. So, the question of the moment is: where do we need wildlife road crossings in North Carolina? This report is our answer to that question.”  

Priority road segments were identified based on daily traffic counts; road characteristics; wildlife-vehicle collision numbers; proximity to protected lands, wetlands or rare species habitat; and connectivity models for black bears, timber rattlesnakes and box turtles. The team combined this information with special attention to wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots and important wildlife connectivity corridors to create a list of 179 priority crossing sites statewide. Input from a panel of more than 40 North Carolina wildlife experts allowed them to select the top 20 sites described in the report. 

The report comes at a critical juncture, as sources of state and federal funding to build wildlife crossings and retrofit existing structures are expanding. The U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in late 2021, includes $350 million for wildlife crossing infrastructure projects through a competitive grant program. 

The full report is available at

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.