Every year, hundreds of animals are hit and killed as they attempt to move within or across the Blackfeet Reservation, posing a significant risk to humans and wildlife. From 1996-2012, the Blackfeet Tribe Motor Vehicle Crash Site Identification Project identified 385 collisions that involved domestic and wild animals, ranking them as the third and fourth most common cause, respectively, of motor vehicle crashes on the Blackfeet Reservation. Collisions with domestic animals ranked as the third highest cause of human fatality-related crashes, and collisions with domestic and wild animals ranked as the third and seventh highest cause of human injury-related crashes on the Reservation during the same period. These data do not include unreported collisions, or collisions with smaller species that do not pose a human safety risk, but which may be substantially impacted by road mortality.
Although there has been strong interest in the Blackfeet community to reduce collisions between motorists and animals, no Reservation-wide assessment of the highest priority road segments has been completed to-date. Without such a priority list, it is difficult to determine the best locations to invest scarce tribal transportation safety dollars to help reduce collisions and improve habitat connectivity on the Reservation.
The Animal-Vehicle Collision Reduction Project is working to develop the first Reservation-wide Animal-Vehicle Collision Reduction Master Plan in the United States. Using state and tribal agency data the Master Plan identifies and prioritizes road sections with the highest incidence of animal-vehicle collisions as well as areas of high connectivity value for wildlife movements within or across the reservation. The project also suggests mitigation measures to improve human safety, reduce unnatural deaths of the animals, and to increase connectivity for wildlife across the roads. Due to its unique geographic location on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, the Blackfeet Nation spans many different habitat types, from the high alpine environment of Glacier National Park to the open grasslands of the northern plains, and is home to a rich diversity of native species.
The results of this project can be used to reduce animal-vehicle collisions on the Blackfeet Reservation and increase habitat connectivity for wildlife. Implementation of the suggested measures will save human lives, reduce domestic animal losses, improve safe wildlife passage, and save the tribal government and tribal members money by reducing direct and indirect animal-vehicle collision-related costs. In addition, recommended solutions may support the free movement of ii-nii-wa (buffalo) across traditional lands on the Blackfeet Reservation, as well as provide safe passage for the tens of thousands of smaller animals that may not pose a safety risk to drivers.