A Greater Understanding of Animal Migration Reveals Threats

by Matt Ball on December 21, 2011

The Wildlife Conservation Society has just released a report that raises alarm bells regarding threats to great American wildlife migrations. The society credits new GPS collars and geolocators for providing a much greater understanding of animal movements, as well as the impediments to their migration. Under threat are five terrestrial animal migrations and three flight-based migrations that are being threatened by fencing, highways, housing development, energy development, agriculture, wind turbines, and climate change.

The terrestrail mammal migrations include three caribou populations located in Alaska, that face deeper winter snows and greater insect harassment due to climate change. The pronghorn migration in northern Montana and Saskatchewan, and the mule deer in western Wyoming, are mainly threatened by increased grazing and crop production as well as development.

WCS Senior Conservationist Keith Aune says, “Within the last decade, we have developed superb tools to identify and map the detailed movements of migrating animals, from the largest to the smallest and lightest—including birds flying halfway around the world.”

GPS collars affixed to migrating pronghorn were used by WCS and the National Park Service to document the longest known hoofed animal migration corridor in the contiguous U.S., which is now also the first federally designated migration corridor –  the “Path of the Pronghorn,” in Wyoming.

Aune suggests that a successful framework for the conservation of these migrations would include: improving jurisdictional cooperation (as migration corridors often cross many borders); public education regarding the importance of ecological connectivity; increased funding to support conservation at key migratory stopovers, pinch points and bottlenecks; and increased field research efforts to identify important migrations and migratory pathways.

Read the full report, “Spectacular Migrations in the Western U.S.,” here.

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