New report provides roadmap for conserving migration routes

Photo credit: Gregory Nickerson and Travis Zaffarano/ Wyoming Migration Initiative, University of Wyoming

Every winter, mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, antelope and bison descend thousands of feet as they move between their summer and winter ranges. They’re following migration routes: distinct pathways animals follow to survive in highly seasonal climates – and that are key to their survival. Researchers have tracked these somewhat mysterious routes for years using GPS technology, gathering a wealth of data that helps wildlife managers, land stewards, transportation officials and policymakers create management strategies that protect these important routes and safeguard migration corridors.

A new report from The Pew Charitable Trusts, “How to Conserve Wildlife Migrations in the West,” takes the current research a step further, providing a way for state, Tribal and federal governing bodies to integrate these critical routes in management and policy decisions. 

Specifically, the study “details the current state of knowledge about the many long and sometimes remarkable migrations in Western states, examines the role of animal movements in the region’s ecological and economic health, identifies the most substantive threats to migrating wildlife, and makes recommendations for the long-term conservation of migratory animals and the corridors they travel,” according to a press release.

Migration routes play a key role in an ungulate’s life cycle. Winter survival and healthy youth populations rely on these pathways, which help provide enough food and quality habitat during critical months. Pew’s study specifically identified “key threats” to these migratory pathways, which include “transportation systems, urban sprawl, fencing, and energy and mineral extraction operations” as well as a lack of available forage due to climate change and an increase in wildlife-vehicle collisions. 

Based upon this information, Pew has developed a set of recommendations that will help conserve these important migratory corridors, including using GPS-informed research, changes to fencing, use of wildlife bridges and underpasses, creating partnerships with landowners and “adoption of smart energy and mineral development practices.”

Click here to view the full report


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