OTTERS have been given a new underground crossroad to help stop the increasing number of road deaths.
The tunnels have been installed on the A9 between Inverness and Thurso to help the otters move between territories.
Scotland Transerv and Transport Scotland, two of the country’s biggest transport companies, introduced the safety measures to crack down road deaths – which is the biggest killer of the animals.
A Scotland Transerv spokesman said: “When the trunk road network was built little consideration was given as to how otters would cross the road.
“They have large territories and need to move around with them. When river flows are low, there is usually not a problem.
“But under high flow conditions following wet weather otters are reluctant to pass through existing culverts or under bridges are instead are forced to risk crossing the road.
“Traffic accidents are the single biggest cause of deaths for otters in the UK.”
Scotland Transerv is responsible for the management and maintenance of the trunk road network in north west Scotland.
In conjunction with Transport Scotland installed the new underground walkways at hotspots where high numbers of otter fatalities have been recorded.
Other measures put in place to help the fuzzy creatures include the installation of warning signs to notify drivers and the installation of 100 reflectors.
The reflectors are used because it intensifies the headlights of vehicles which will make otters more aware of potential dangers and discourage them from crossing.
Another road that has had the works installed is the A82 Inverness to Fort William road near Loch Dochfour.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “It is not claimed these measures will be 100% effective.
“However by continuing to monitor the sites it can be determined which measures are working best and lessons put into practice for the future.
“Anything that can be done to reduce the otter deaths on our roads has to be a good thing.”
According to the Scottish Natural Heritage about 12.5% of the otter population inScotlandis in danger of being killed on the roads.
An SNH spokeswoman said: “From the information we have we believe that there are around 1,000 otters killed onScotland’s roads every year.
“The otter population in the country is only about 8,000 so the fatality rates are extremely concerning.
“There have even been reports of whole families, that is mothers and cubs, being killed in one incident.”