A black bear and two cubs walk across a highway to reach the other side of the road.

Top 3 Things to Know About the I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project

The popularity of the Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee National Forest has grown over the last 20 years, both in terms of population and tourism. This has led to a 43 percent increase in traffic volume on Interstate 40 in the Pigeon River Gorge in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. Unfortunately, this growth has also led to a rapid increase in wildlife mortality caused by vehicle collisions! Now is the time to find solutions to this problem with the Safe Passage Coalition, a group working together for safe wildlife passage across I-40. Here are the top 3 things to know about their I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project:

1. Why the Project Exists

black bear crossing road The I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project exists to increase the safe flow of animals in and out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well to the adjacent public lands along the I-40 corridor. The substantial increase in traffic along I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge presents a serious threat to the wildlife that live along the corridor, including black bear, elk, deer, bobcats and coyotes. Since these animals travel in search of shelter, food and mates, they often need to cross the highway. With more than 28,500 vehicles passing through this 28 mile stretch of highway each day, it is easy to see how I-40 in Pigeon River Gorge has become very dangerous for both animals and humans!

2. Researching the Solution

In the effort to increase highway safety along I-40, partners of the Safe Passage Coalition are conducting extensive research to understand how wildlife is moving along the Pigeon River Gorge roadways. As an example, studies have been completed to identify and predict elk road crossing locations using movement information from GPS-collared elk. The research helps to raise awareness about wildlife collision prevention, encourage community members to integrate wildlife needs into transportation projects, build financial support for safe passageways, and much more! You can sign up here to receive updates on Safe Passage’s research and progress in building safe crossings for wildlife in the Pigeon River Gorge.

3. How to Get Involved

A beautiful white tailed deer stands in the meadows.There are many ways that you can get involved with the Safe Passage Coalition’s I-40 Pigeon River Wildlife Crossing Project! One of the best ways is to take a pledge to protect wildlife in the Pigeon River Gorge. By completing the pledge form, you can pledge to observe the speed limit, be vigilant for wildlife entering the roadway, secure food in food and trash in bear-resistant containers, and teach others the importance of doing the same. The goal of Safe Passage is to reach 10,000 pledges, so each and every pledge helps! You can also get involved with the project by making individual donations and spreading the word through educational events!

You can help support the I-40 Pigeon River Wildlife Crossing Project simply by reserving a stay at our Smoky Mountain campground and making a donation during the booking process! Let’s work together to help build a way to get animals safely across I-40 in the Pigeon River Gorge!