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Project Underway for Wildlife Overpasses in the Smoky Mountains

Protecting Smoky Mountain wildlife is an important part of preserving the national park. To further protect these beautiful creatures, the Safe Passage Fund Coalition has launched the I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project. Learn more about this project below:

Why The Project is Important

black bear in the roadOn average, there are about 26,000 vehicles that drive through the Pigeon River Gorge section of the interstate every day. This section is right outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where thousands of animals live. These creatures roam the area because it’s their natural habitat, and they don’t understand how roads work. Animals end up on the roads, and there are several accidents involving the creatures. The goal of the project is to protect wildlife from busy roads and prevent accidents, for the safety of animals and humans.

Goals of the Project

There will be several overpasses and underpasses along 28 miles of I-40 at the Tennessee-North Carolina border. They will connect the land, making it safe for bears, elk, deer, and other animals to cross roads. People associated with the project will look for certain areas along this 28-mile stretch where there is the most crossing activity and build the crossing structures there. There are similar projects like this one in progress in Washington, Colorado, and Utah.

More About the Project

whitetail deer grazing along the Cades Cove Loop RoadThe Safe Passage Coalition is the group who came up with the project. They are currently working to get funding in place to work on these overpasses and underpasses to protect all kinds of animals and people from harm. Organizations included in the Coalition are the Conservation Fund, Wildlands Network, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, National Parks Conservation Association, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains

You may be wondering what kind of animals would be protected when the project is complete. Here’s a list of animals that frequently cross roads:

  • Black Bears
  • Elk
  • White Tailed Deer
  • Bobcats
  • Coyotes
  • Woodchuck
  • Red Foxes
  • Gray Squirrels
  • Raccoons
  • Possums
  • Turtles
  • Skunks

Places to see Wildlife in the Smoky Mountains

cades cove mountain viewEveryone wants to see these creatures in their natural habitat. While there’s no guarantee you’ll see animals when you’re in the Smokies, there are a few places where you are more likely to see them out and about.

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a hotspot for wildlife. Many people spot back bears, deer, turkey, and many other creatures in the area. You get to drive around the Loop and see these animals graze in the fields or hide in the trees.

Roaring Fork Motor Trail

Another scenic drive that is a spot where people see wildlife is Roaring Fork Motor Trail. Black bears are known to frequent this area, as well as many other animals.

Along Hiking Trails

A sign along the Appalachian Trail.When you go hiking in the backcountry, you’re more likely to see animals. There are all kinds of birds, squirrels, and other small animals around. Plus, if you’re near water, you might see fish, turtles, and salamanders.

Keeping wildlife safe in the Smoky Mountains is essential, and that’s why the I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project is important. Learn even more about the Smoky Mountains here!