USGS has published big game migration maps that play a critical role in supporting wildlife conservation efforts. The USGS, in partnership with state and tribal wildlife agencies, recently released the third volume in a series of new big game migration corridor maps in December 2022. These maps allow stakeholders relevant stakeholders such as policy makers, land managers, etc., take appropriate action. to mitigate the impacts of land development on wildlife. The first two sets of maps released by the team were released in 2020 and early 2022.
The maps have provided a visual picture of some big game travel routes that carry deer, elk and pronghorn roads that traverse the western states of the United States. Individual animal trails can be distinguished on the maps, and the most interesting parts they reveal are the parts where these trails converge.
“Many herds of ungulates must migrate to thrive in the highly seasonal landscapes of the American West. These corridor maps allow for planning to keep these corridors open,” said Matthew Kauffman, wildlife research biologist at the Unit of USGS Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research and lead author of the report on the official USGS press release for this map update.
GPS collar data has helped the mapping team track animal movement routes and has been a great source of identifying trouble spots such as overlapping flyway points and obstacles existing, as well as the possible obstacles that prevent the free migration of animals.
This unique mapping exercise is being orchestrated by the Corridor Mapping Team who have been working to develop standard techniques for making migration maps accessible to the public. Since its inception in 2018, the Corridor Mapping Team has expanded to include participation from 11 western US state wildlife management agencies, as well as several tribal and federal agencies.
Migration routes and intervals can be explored in an interactive portal created for the same.
Improve conservation efforts
The western United States has a large population of ungulates (hoofed mammals). Their presence is undoubtedly a large component of the area’s biodiversity assets. Maintaining the predator-prey balance in the ecosystem of the region is indeed an important role. Their presence also affects plant cover and contributes to economic gains for local communities by promoting tourism and hunting opportunities.
All these animals participate in seasonal migrations to access the necessary resources that are distributed in a variable way by the surrounding regions, as well as at different times of the year. Each year during the spring and fall, deer, elk, pronghorn and other ungulate mammals migrate across the western United States to avoid heavy snow and access the most nutritious forage.
The search for protection from predators and other threats is also a catalyst for these migration initiatives. However, as the human footprint expands across the western United States, there is an increasing danger to these ungulates on migratory journeys.
Action plans based on the results of the mapping
The mapping exercise has yielded results that have helped implement appropriate action plans to promote wildlife conservation efforts. The migration maps have been a valuable reference point for state and tribal wildlife agencies to work with their respective transportation agencies to conceptualize and begin construction of wildlife underpasses and overpasses. This would examine the safety of animals to be able to cross major road networks.
Related activities such as displaying message boards and automatic systems along roads to alert drivers and animals crossing have also been initiated as wildlife travel routes have become clear. Ease of travel for wildlife is taken into account and fences along the route are being removed as well as recreational and tourism activities surrounding these travel routes to allow wildlife migration to continue smoothly.
Land development activities and related stakeholders are also receiving clarity to examine their plans and reduce and refocus housing development plans in areas of concern. Renewable energy project sites are also being reconsidered based on these migration plans.
Location Intelligence is revolutionizing wildlife conservation
Location intelligence data captured on clearly depicted maps has been a very effective tool to strengthen wildlife conservation in the present times. Location intelligence information allows researchers to determine animal locations, migration patterns, and even an animal’s social group. This effective tool is also used by conservationists to control and conserve animals in their natural habitat. This information provides rich insight into understanding various aspects of wildlife existence and in turn helps stakeholders formulate appropriate conservation programs.
It is now well recognized that traditional wildlife approaches are insufficient, as many areas of wildlife habitat are physically impossible to reach and monitor. However, with the recent development of various uses of location intelligence techniques and their cartographic results have streamlined conservation efforts to be highly refined and efficient. In fact, this technology has dramatically increased the possibility of accessing the farthest reaches of the natural world.
Geospatial technologies have improved animal conservation plans today and offer a great opportunity for biodiversity protection by changing the dynamics of the field in favor of wildlife species.
Also read: GPS tracking for poaching prevention