Yield: Elk, Moose & Mule Deer Crossing
October 21, 2010
There are many answers to the riddle of why
moose, elk, and deer cross roads. But the mystery WCS scientists are trying to solve is where these large mammals choose to cross.
In an attempt to
decrease car accidents along U.S. Route 20 in Idaho, the researchers are
radio-collaring moose and elk and tracking their movements via satellite.
Called “the longest Main Street in America,” Route 20 was the scene of almost
170 collisions with moose, elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer between 2005
Determining how wildlife travels
through the region and how species interact with the road will make the highway
safer for the animals and for the people driving on it.
“Roadways are one of the biggest threats for wildlife populations in the
twenty-first century,” said Jodi Hilty, program director for WCS-North
“Fortunately, advances in the science of road ecology, as well as new
help us address both greater human safety and wildlife conservation
in new and existing roadways.”
The moose and elk's GPS-collars will reveal the animals’ migration paths
and preferred road-crossing points as they journey from their
wintering grounds in Idaho’s St. Anthony Sand Dunes and Sand Creek Wildlife
Management Area to their summer feeding grounds in the Island Park Caldera and
Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park. Citizen scientists are also volunteering
to map the animals’ movements, but in the old-fashioned way. They will scan the
roadway for hoofprints and other animal tracks and report the wildlife they see
from their car windows—hopefully, at a safe distance.
“This will be the most detailed
data ever collected on elk and moose in the Sand Creek/Island Park area of
Idaho,” said Shane Roberts, a wildlife biologist for Idaho Fish and Game. “It
should provide a wealth of information on seasonal movements, survival,
behavior around roadways, and road crossing sites that will be used to better
manage these species and improve human safety along U.S. 20.”
In addition to the threat of car crashes,
roadways can harm wildlife populations by dividing their habitat, impeding
their migrations, and forcing the animals to change how they search for food
and mates. Read "The Wild West: A Prognhorn's Incredible Journey
" to learn more about WCS's work protecting wildlife corridors.