Moose bridges

ElgebroCory writes about overpasses and tunnels designed to let animals tranfer themselves – and their genes – across highways from Yukon to Yellowstone.

This is not news here in Norway – we have had "moose bridges" for years. They are a standard feature of all highways leading out of Oslo, as well as across the high-speed train to the main airport. The design is less ambitious than that visualized at Boingboing. We don’t do underpasses, since Norwegian moose won’t use them (whether US critters are less discerning remains to be seen.) As for using barbed wire for capturing fur…, well that is going to be a real motivator for sexually adventurous animals, isn’t it?

Anyway, the motivation for the bridges here in Norway is much simpler: Avoiding collisions between moose and cars. A moose can weigh in at 550 kg (1200 lbs.), and has long, thin legs which elevates most of that mass to just the perfect height for entering your car through the windscreen.

Moose warning signWhich reminds me of a little anecdote: When I moved to the US in 1990, I had to sell my SUV, a Mitsubishi Pajero (1987 model). I advertised it, and it ended up being bought by one of my business school colleagues. I was a little uncomfortable selling the car to a colleague – not that there was anything wrong with it, but if you sell it to someone you know, you take on a bit more responsiblity, at least morally.

Anyway, I moved to the States, then came back home for a holiday a year later. Visiting my old place of employment, I was walking through the main hallway when I heard my colleague shouting "Espen, Espen!" and literally running towards me. My neck hairs came up – was there something wrong with the car?

My colleague – a professor of organizational psychology – was short of breath and panted "Thanks for saving my life!" Eventually, the story came out:

He had been teaching a course at a branch campus outside Oslo in January. On his way home in, he had decided to take a short-cut using a dirt road through the forest. And as he came round a bend, he ran smack into a bull moose that nearly totalled the Pajero. But since the car was high off the ground and frame-built, it absorbed the impact in the front rather than with the windscreen, and my colleague was not hurt. If he had had a normal car, he said, he would almost certainly have been killed. "What a car, what a car!", he exclaimed, again thanking me profusely.

As he walked off, my heartbeat slowly returned to normal, and I thought it was a good thing I had kept quiet and not pointed out the obvious: If he had had a normal car, he would never have taken that shortcut in the first place….

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Incidentally, here’s a page, in Norwegian, explaining about moose bridges. As for the moose signs, one of the problems with them is that tourists – particularly Germans – like them and steal them as souvenirs. So now you can buy them at all the tourist shops.

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