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USGS releases western ungulate migration maps

USGS releases western ungulate migration maps

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A new resource to benefit land management and conservation strategy is now available thanks to a collaborative effort between state and federal wildlife biologists. Ungulate Migrations of the Western United States: Volume 1 is a comprehensive collection of maps that illustrate migration routes for mule deer, elk, antelope, moose and bison across Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming

It’s the first time anything of this caliber has been completed for ungulate migrations.

"This new detailed assessment of migration routes, timing and interaction of individual animals and herds has given us an insightful view of the critical factors necessary for protecting wildlife and our citizens,” said United States Geological Survey (USGS) Director Jim Reilly.

According to USGS, the new maps will be used “to keep migration routes open and functional” in order to maintain healthy big game populations across the West.

“I’m really proud of the team that worked across multiple agencies to transform millions of GPS locations into standardized migration maps,” said Matt Kauffman, lead author of the report and director of the USGS Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. “Many ungulate herds have been following the same paths across western landscapes since before the United States existed, so these maps are long overdue.”

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The mapping project, which is a result of the Department of the Interior Secretary’s Order 3362, utilized two decades of wildlife research gathered through GPS tracking collars, allowing researchers to better understand complex migration patterns. Migration patterns can change based upon human encroachment, habitat loss and other factors. Severe droughts, manmade fencing and roads and energy development have also constricted migration movement over the last few decades.

However, projects like this one provide information that land managers and conservation officials can use to help better support and conserve big game herds. In fact, according to USGS, the detailed maps will be used to “identify key infrastructure that affect migration patterns” in order to “work with private landowners to protect vital habitats and maintain the functionality of corridors." Mapping also allows researchers to keep tabs on other issues that impact ungulate herds like chronic wasting disease.

“Just like Wyoming, Nevada has long valued our mule deer migrations,” said Tony Wasley, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “This effort has provided us with a new level of technical expertise to get these corridors mapped in a robust way. We look forward to using these maps to guide our stewardship of Nevada’s mule deer migrations.”

To view the complete report, click HERE.

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