A unique blend of wildlife awareness, historic architectural bridge models and video technology secures elevated, safe passageways over busy streets.
Milestone Systems open platform IP video management software (VMS) is helping the City of Longview, Washington, with an unusual deployment of video surveillance cameras to monitor the use of the city’s unique network of elevated squirrel bridges.
Located 90 miles from the Pacific Ocean where the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers meet, Longview is a relatively new city. Less than 75 years ago, the area where it now stands was sparsely populated wilderness and rural homesteads. Its position on the edge of nature has motivated the city to leverage innovative technology to help manage the well-being of their wild and furry citizens.
According to the City of Longview website, the original Nutty Narrows Squirrel bridge was built in 1963 to give the animals a way to cross a busy thoroughfare without getting flattened by passing cars. Before the bridge was conceived and built, squirrels had to dodge traffic to and from the Park Plaza office building where staff put out a nutty feast for the squirrels.
One day, a dead squirrel with a nut still in its mouth was found, and that day’s coffee break turned into a discussion of squirrel safety. A group of business people cooked up the squirrel bridge idea and formed a committee to ask the City Council’s blessing. The first to be built was The Nutty Narrows, named by a local councilwoman after the state’s Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
After local architects designed the bridge, and the engineering was complete, the 60-foot structure was constructed from aluminum and lengths of fire hose, for a cost of just $1,000. It didn’t take long before reports of squirrels using the bridge started. Squirrels were even seen teaching their young how to make their way across.
“The bridges are symbolic, but the squirrels actually use them, and we have cameras to watch live views,” explained Keith Young, Senior Sales Engineer, Last Mile, Inc., a Milestone Partner.”There are several in town, mostly around the lake. All of them are beautiful and ornate. It’s just kind of a fun thing about my town.”
The Nutty Narrows bridge has become a landmark, and five additional bridges have since been erected with a seventh in the works. They are interesting architecturally and several are models of real bridges built to scale, such as the Fremont Bridge in Portland, Oregon. Download a map of the Longview squirrel bridges here.
The Nutty Narrows network of squirrel bridges – now integrated with Milestone video surveillance technology – represents a true merging of innovation and civic responsibility. This initiative joins many other Milestone video solutions created for animal safety and protection around the world in zoos, state and national parks, wildlife research projects and for Polar Bears International.”
Careful monitoring in Longview shows that the Western Grey squirrel is a primary user of the bridge system. Standing as high as 12-inches tall, with a bushy 12-inch tail, Western Grays are the largest native tree squirrel in Washington. They forage in trees for acorns and conifer seeds, but also on the ground for mushrooms and to bury acorns. They travel from tree to tree on branches in graceful, wave-like leaps, on the ground or over the suspended squirrel bridges. They may vocalize in the fall with a hoarse “chuff-chuff-chuff” barking.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recognizes the Western Gray, Douglas, Red and Flying Squirrels as protected species in the state. The Western Gray squirrel was added to the Washington State list of threatened species in 1993.