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Response of female black bears to a high-density road network and identification of long-term road mitigation sitesAuthor(s): K. A. Zeller; D. W. Wattles; L. Conlee; S. Destefano
Source: Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/acv.12621.
Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Station: Rocky Mountain Research Station
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DescriptionRoads can result in negative effects on wildlife including habitat loss, behavioral avoidance, reduced survival, reproduction and gene flow. These road effects are especially pronounced for large mammals given their large home-range requirements and low reproductive rates. To counteract these negative effects, road mitigation measures, such as underpasses and overpasses, are promoted; however, future landscape changes are rarely considered when selecting mitigation locations. We used GPS telemetry data on female American black bears Ursus americanus to examine their response to roads in Massachusetts, US. We compared bear road crossing frequency with a null crossing model derived from a correlated random walk, estimated road crossing movement speeds, and fit a road-crossing resource selection function. We found that, though black bears crossed roads less than expected based on the null model, 10% of their observed steps, on average, crossed roads. We also found bears crossed roads at higher movement speeds than during other home-range behaviors, and that bears preferred to cross smaller, less trafficked roads in areas with lower speed limits, less human development and more forest. We used the resource selection model to identify road segments for potential mitigation efforts and then used future human development projections to forecast future changes in these segments. We found a decrease of 15% in the length of suitable mitigation segments from 2019 to 2050. Given the sizeable investment in wildlife crossing structures and their longevity on the landscape, we recommend incorporating future projections into crossing site selection to ensure the long-term viability of road mitigation efforts.
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CitationZeller, K. A.; Wattles, D. W.; Conlee, L.; Destefano, S. 2020. Response of female black bears to a high-density road network and identification of long-term road mitigation sites. Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/acv.12621.
Keywordsroad ecology, black bear, movement ecology, multi-scale selection, future projections, human development
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