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Report Cites Wildlife-Migration Challenges, Solutions

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Tuesday, October 11, 2022   

Like humans, animals are creatures of habit and often do not adjust when their migration routes are disrupted.

A new report said there is adequate science to meet the challenge in New Mexico and other Western states. Each year, mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other large animals travel hundreds of miles in search of food.

Jesse Duebel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said by fitting migrating wildlife with GPS collars, scientists learn their routes and can recommend where overpasses, underpasses, box culverts and strategic fencing should be built, which he said has three major benefits.

"Number one, we're creating jobs in local communities; number two, we're reducing the number of wildlife/vehicle collisions happening on our roadways; and the third benefit, of course, is to the wildlife itself," Duebel outlined. "We're not losing wildlife on our roadways."

Duebel pointed out New Mexico's recently adopted Wildlife Corridors Action Plan is the first in the country to tackle wildlife habitat and driver-safety concerns holistically, rather than as separate issues.

Matt Skroch, project director of U.S. public lands and rivers conservation for the Pew Charitable Trusts and the study's author, said wildlife are important for natural landscapes and support the multimillion-dollar recreation industry.

"If they can't journey along these migration routes, in many cases the populations decline," Skroch explained. "A declining population is bad for the wildlife, and it's bad for the people that depend on those wildlife."

Duebel noted while GPS has been around for several decades, it has only recently been scaled up for broad applications in wildlife research.

"So by just doing all of this mapping and utilizing these GPS collar technologies, we can see exactly where the problems are and then work with the Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to develop long-term durable solutions," Duebel stated.

New Mexico's Wildlife Corridors Act directs state agencies to seek input from the public, tribal governments and other stakeholders as the plan is implemented.

Disclosure: The Pew Charitable Trusts Environmental Group contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species & Wildlife, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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