If you block the road to a school or major grocery store, which detour will drivers most likely take to get there? Similarly, if you build a road that cuts across a valley, how will wildlife respond in their normal patterns of movement, foraging and resting?
Ecologists at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center are conducting several studies looking at how wildlife respond to urban features like roadways and communities
. In one project, lead scientist Erin Boydston
biologist Lisa Lyren
and their colleagues placed GPS collars on wild bobcats -- and the GPS data collected are shedding clues to how animals navigate the "suburban jungle" of Southern California.
Here is one animation created in Google Earth
visualizing these movement patterns using data from a collared male bobcat that crossed back and forth at Highway 71 far east of Los Angeles
-- data suggesting that bobcats can figure out how to use highway undercrossings:
This GPS tracking project is being conducted with partners from Colorado State University
and the California Department of Transportation
This research helps scientists and resource managers understand why wildlife sometimes travel over roadways instead of under them, and whether paths like undercrossings and culverts are used by animals to safely move across their home range.
Data from collared bobcats also will allow researchers to create computer models that help predict wildlife movement under different scenarios of new urban features.
-- Ben Young Landis
Top Photo: This male bobcat's GPS collar shows that it crossed Highway 71 three times over the course of a day. Photo credit: Lisa Lyren/USGS.