In February 2022, Smoky Mountain Living magazine published “A Conversation With the Smokies’ Wildlife Crossing Guard,” an interview with Safe Passage facilitator and National Parks Conservation Association senior program manager Jeff Hunter.
In the article, Hunter spoke with reporter Holly Kays on wildlife crossings in the Smokies, as well as the work of Safe Passage: The I-40 Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Crossing Project.
“Interstate 40 opened in the gorge in 1968, and at that time the bear population was probably a quarter of what it is today — if not less — and there were no elk on the landscape,” Hunter said in the interview. “Today we have a growing bear population and a growing elk population that’s on both sides of the highway.”
Hunter went on to describe the increase in mortality rates along this stretch of interstate, as well as the work being done to mitigate this increase, then added: “The park is big, but wildlife doesn’t recognize the boundaries. So we have to work outside the boundaries if we’re going to make an impact.”
To read the full interview in Smoky Mountain Living, click here.