23 July 2024
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Understanding Big Game Migrations in the American West

The American West is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including ungulates, or hooved mammals, such as mule deer, pronghorn, and elk. These majestic animals undertake remarkable migrations each spring and fall, traveling vast distances to access the most nutritious plants and avoid harsh winter conditions. However, with the expansion of human activities in the region, these species face increasing challenges such as new subdivisions, energy development, and high-traffic roads that disrupt their traditional migration routes.

Mapping Big Game Migrations: A Vital Conservation Effort

In a collaborative effort, researchers have recently mapped 33 new big game migrations across the American West, shedding light on the critical ranges and migration routes used by these ungulates. This mapping project, documented in the fourth volume of the Ungulate Migrations of the Western United States, provides valuable insights into the movements of these iconic species, furthering scientists’ understanding of the geography of big game migrations.

The report series, produced in collaboration with wildlife agencies from multiple states including Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming, highlights the seasonal ranges and migration patterns of 182 unique herds across 10 states. By adopting a standard set of methods, the research team has created robust migration maps that span diverse landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Northwest and the desert ecosystems of the Southwest.

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Conservation Implications of Migration Mapping

The detailed migration maps generated through this collaborative effort serve as a crucial resource for conservation and management initiatives in the face of changing landscapes. For instance, the maps have been instrumental in informing decisions related to leasing for oil and gas development and siting renewable energy projects in ways that minimize impacts on critical habitat. By identifying areas where migrations intersect with potential obstacles, such as solar farms or high-traffic roads, scientists can provide essential information to managers, policymakers, and landowners working to mitigate the impacts on wildlife.

The mapping work also plays a key role in facilitating informed conversations between conservationists, landowners, and developers to ensure the preservation of wildlife corridors. By understanding the precise movements of elk, mule deer, moose, and pronghorn across the landscape, stakeholders can work together to protect the habitat vital for these species’ health and well-being.

Collaborative Efforts and Future Directions

The success of the migration mapping project is a testament to the collaborative spirit among state wildlife agencies, federal entities, Tribal organizations, and other partners involved in the initiative. By working together to map ungulate migration corridors using standardized techniques, the Corridor Mapping Team has made significant strides in documenting and preserving these critical pathways for wildlife.

As the project continues to evolve, future volumes of the Ungulate Migrations of the Western United States report series will likely provide additional insights into the movements of ungulates across the region. By leveraging the interactive www.westernmigrations.net portal and downloading map files from www.sciencebase.gov, stakeholders and the public can explore these migration routes and ranges, gaining a deeper appreciation for the remarkable journeys undertaken by big game species in the American West.

Links to additional Resources:

1. www.usgs.gov 2. www.science.org 3. www.nationalgeographic.com

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Wildlife conservation, Ungulate migrations, Western United States

Wildlife conservation
Wildlife conservation refers to the practice of protecting wild species and their habitats in order to maintain healthy wildlife species or populations and to restore, protect or enhance natural ecosystems. Major threats to wildlife include habitat destruction, degradation, fragmentation, overexploitation, poaching, pollution, climate change, and the illegal wildlife trade. The...
Read more: Wildlife conservation

Elk
The elk (pl.: elk or elks; Cervus canadensis), or wapiti, is the second largest species within the deer family, Cervidae, and one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America and Central and East Asia. The word "elk" originally referred to the European variety of the...
Read more: Elk

Western United States
The Western United States, also called the American West, the Western States, the Far West, and the West, is the region comprising the westernmost U.S. states. As American settlement in the U.S. expanded westward, the meaning of the term the West changed. Before around 1800, the crest of the Appalachian...
Read more: Western United States

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