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Several wild animals need large unbroken segments of habitat for survival but are reluctant to move through urban barriers created by human development. This segmentation ultimately causes the loss of species over time. Conservationists across the United States are working to reduce wildlife mortality, as it relates to movement among human development, without discouraging wildlife’s natural migrations between habitats. This is where wildlife corridors come in.
Corridors provide an unbroken path of habitat that provides animals with safe passage as they travel through agricultural or urban landscapes. They are sometimes naturally constructed through management practices, such as conserving already present parcels to provide a navigable strip of land between habitats. However, wildlife managers are frequently exploring programs that artificially construct corridors as highway overpasses or underpasses. By aiding the movement of populations throughout the landscape, there is a lower chance for extinction and greater support for species richness.
These pathways are actively being used in management planning. The National Federation for Wildlife (NFW) is working with landowners, government officials and other partners to build strategic gaps in guardrails and create underpasses, bridges and culverts for safer crossing. In Vermont, the NFW is working with state wildlife agencies on a Critical Paths Project. This project aims to identify critical areas in need of wildlife corridors and facilitate their creation and management. Additionally, the National Elk Refuge included building wildlife crossings over highways in a proposed conservation plan in Wyoming.
Corridors are created to facilitate the movement of wildlife so that distribution is maintained within local populations. They are the key to population persistence, as it promotes gene flow between populations and supports higher species diversity. Wildlife managers are continually researching the best ways to utilize these pathways and encourage them in state conservation efforts. Who knew that even deer could relate to age old saying “take the high road.”
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