Wildlife rely on secure habitat and the ability to move—sometimes over great distances—to maintain robust populations through increased reproduction and survival rates. Movements occur on both daily and seasonal basis and understanding movements and their impediments are essential in maintaining landscape connectivity.
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. See our recent report for Ranchers Stewardship Alliance that prioritizes habitat to sustain migratory pathways and winter range for big game in Northcentral Montana.
Wildlife Xing is a citizen-science based program which seeks to address wildlife-transportation conflicts through short and long-term goals (see this video). 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, has been working on wildlife connectivity issues for over a decade. See below for some relevant co-authored publications:
• Fences reduce habitat for a partially migratory ungulate in the Northern Sagebrush Steppe
• Beyond protected areas: Private land and public policy anchor intact pathways for multi-species wildlife migration
• Longest terrestrial migrations and movements around the world
• A fence runs through it: A call for greater attention to the influence of fences on wildlife and ecosystems
• To Jump or Not to Jump: Mule Deer and White-Tailed Deer Fence Crossing Decisions
• Classifying the Migration Behaviors of Pronghorn on Their Northern Range
• New Mexico Wildlife Habitat Linkage Assessment - Pronghorn
• Evaluating Responses by Pronghorn to Fence Modifications Across the Northern Great Plains
• Modeling Fence Location and Density at a Regional Scale for Use in Wildlife Management
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, mitigation efforts along transportation corridors, restoring critical wet areas on the dry prairie, and engaging local high communities 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.
Transportation Bill Critical for Improved Wildlife Connectivity
Montana Education Coordinator, Naomi Alhadeff, describes how wildlife crossings can save lives and also improve wildlife connectivity across the West.
Running the Gauntlet
Crops, dams, fences, roads and other human footprints can block animal movements, but efforts are afoot to open wildlife corridors.
Pronghorn Xing: a Two-Pronged Approach
Community-science helps gather information to prevent wildlife collisions on highways.
Wildlife Know No Boundaries
The Northern Great Plains is an example of multi-jurisdiction wildlife management.
Connecting Wildlife Habitats
Wildlife move both daily and seasonally to survive, and their need to move may be greater than ever.
More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.