New Video Highlights Importance of Wilderness for Wildlife

A new video developed by the University of Wyoming, highlights the importance of designated wilderness areas for five of Wyoming’s migratory big-game species.  The researchers detail how elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep and pronghorn all use Wyoming and Colorado wilderness areas, mostly as high-country summer range. It’s the first time that these migration corridors have been mapped to specifically see how animals use wilderness areas.

These wildlife migration patterns have been mapped and are highlighted in the video above.

​“We have known for years that undeveloped habitat is crucial for the West’s iconic big game species, but this new compilation of data shows in detail the extent to which these animals migrate through habitats designated as wilderness,” says Matthew Kauffman, a professor at UW who led the effort. “As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, this information illustrates the benefits of those actions taken five decades ago for these important wildlife species and the migration corridors they depend on today.”

Specifically, the new findings show that:

-- Elk moving to and from summer range in Yellowstone National Park migrate extensively through the Teton, Washakie and North Absaroka wilderness areas in the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton national forests.

-- Also in the greater Yellowstone area, moose that winter east of Jackson Lake move north into and through the Teton wilderness area on their spring migration.

-- Bighorn sheep migrate through and spend summers in the Bridger and Fitzpatrick wilderness areas south of Dubois.

-- Pronghorn migrate north from the Green River Basin to summer in and near the Gros Ventre wilderness.

-- And mule deer that winter in the Platte Valley move south through the Huston Park, Savage Run, Encampment River, Platte River and Mount Zirkel wilderness areas in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado during their seasonal migrations.

“To assure the future health of these herds, land managers and others must look at ways to keep these migration corridors intact across a variety of landscapes, not just wilderness,” Kauffman says. “The goal of this new mapping effort, and the short film, is to make research about these migrations more accessible -- and more useful -- to people working to manage and conserve these herds and their habitats.”

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