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Wildlife Connectivity

Wildlife rely on secure habitat and the ability to movesometimes over great distances—to maintain robust populations through increased reproduction and survival rates. Movements occur on both daily and seasonal basis and understanding and mapping these movements is essential in maintaining landscape connectivity.

Pronghorn flipped

Connectivity is a landscape level ecological characteristic that leads to a proper functioning and more resilient ecosystem. In addition, connectivity is significant for wildlife population maintenance on a changing landscape as it enables wildlife to track changes in seasonal conditions, exploit forage quality and quantity across the landscape, return to or locate new breeding grounds, respond to stochastic events (i.e., fire, drought, snow, flooding) and, mitigate human development. Wildlife corridors can be used both daily or seasonally (i.e., during migration or dispersal) to minimize these changes on the landscape. Habitat loss through conversion and fragmentation are impediments to landscape connectivity. Linear features such as roads, fences and railroads fragment the landscape and incrementally reduce the ability for wildlife to move.

The National Wildlife Federation realizes that the best way to increase landscape connectivity is to work with all stakeholders across the landscape. We work across jurisdictions as wildlife are unconcerned with man-made borders. We use scientific approaches to identify migration corridors, large-scale connectivity and assess impediments to movement. Tools of the trade include remote cameras, GPS collars deployed on wildlife, modelling approaches, and monitoring and fostering long-term relationships. To that end, we partner with state and federal agencies, landowners, universities and other conservation organizations to find effective on-the-ground solutions so that both people and wildlife thrive.

Pronghorn crossing under fence

Pronghorn Xing is a citizen-science based program which seeks to address wildlife-transportation conflicts through short and long-term goals. Through community involvement, we will collect data to help identify hot spots for mitigation opportunities along roadways. We will also develop a connectivity curriculum so that middle and high school students can learn about this ecological phenomenon and localize it to their specific landscape.  The program includes the use of smartphone technology and an associated on-line mapping tool to increase efficiency, accuracy and ease of data collection, and ultimately generate a dataset to be used to inform strategies for mitigating wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve ecological connectivity, which has benefits to both wildlife and human safety. We currently are rebranding the program to Wildlife Xing — all wildlife species across all ecosystem types can be recorded using the app. To learn more about the Pronghorn Xing program or to download the app, check out the website or our Facebook page!

 Andrew Jakes, NWF’s regional wildlife biologist was a co-author for this article in Scientific Reports: Longest terrestrial migrations and movements around the world. 

The National Wildlife Federation Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific region's continued work aims to build upon these initiatives, with a long-term vision of restoring large migratory populations of native wildlife and thriving local communities. Our collaborative work depends on protecting habitats and removing migration barriers, as well as building networks of community awareness and support. Our work centers around assessing wildlife migration barriers, removing or modifying fences that get in the way of wildlife movements, restoring critical wet areas on the dry prairie, and engaging local high school students in citizen science wildlife monitoring efforts.


For more information about the National Wildlife Federation's wildlife connectivity and migration work, please contact Andrew Jakes at JakesA@nwf.org.

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