Critical Big Game Migration Routes Mapped by State and Federal Biologists in Premier Western States

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator

On November 12, the US Geological Survey (USGS) released an article touting a newly released study, Ungulate Migrations of the Western United States: Volume 1, which includes maps of more than 40 big-game migration routes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

For the first time, state and federal wildlife biologists have come together to map the migrations of mule deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, and bison across the great American West. The maps will be one of the many tools helping land managers and conservationists pinpoint actions necessary to keep vital migration routes open and functional to sustain healthy big-game populations.

Facilitated by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary’s Order 3362, the big-game migration mapping effort builds on more than two decades of wildlife research and has brought greater focus to the need to manage and conserve migration routes in the West. As big-game migrations grow more difficult due to human encroachment and habitat alteration, herds are having to contend with additional factors to find the best forage during times of high stress. Fortunately, the detailed migration maps will help to identify key infrastructure that affect migration patterns and allow conservation officials to work in collaboration with private landowners and others to ensure the integrity of vital habitats and maintain the functionality of corridors. Additionally, migration maps will help researchers monitor and limit the spread of contagious diseases, such as chronic wasting disease, which are becoming more prevalent in wild North American cervid populations such as deer, elk and moose.

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