Planning Ahead for Wildlife Corridors
By: Amanda Artz
Due to recent unfortunate events in the mountain lion world and being overloaded with environmental planning jargon, I wrote this small summary about the need for wildlife corridor planning to ensure the safety and success of large predators (like my favorite animal of all time, which you all should know by now!).
The most common fate for a mountain lion that enters the “territory” of humans is death. These large, stealthy predators evoke fear and uncertainty among us, rendering them doomed if they ever cross our paths, regardless of whether they were doing any harm. What people don’t really understand is that mountain lions aren’t suddenly entering human territory, we are entering theirs. Urban sprawl and exurban growth is increasing the chances of mountain lion sightings and encounters immensely. The only way to lessen the chance of encounters is to plan ahead when designing neighborhoods in known mountain lion habitat (or not putting neighborhoods there at all….hey, a girl can dream). This can be done by incorporating wildlife habitat corridors in and around exurban areas. Corridors are tracts of land that create separation and protection for animal populations from human development. It is much easier to design wildlife corridors before development occurs instead of realizing the need for them and trying to design them after development, so I hope that in the future, planning for the safe and successful existence of biodiversity is taken into much greater consideration. What if we designed neighborhoods based on the needs of wildlife populations of that area? We determined the biologically optimal wildlife corridor for each population using GIS, and then designed the neighborhood around the corridor. Naturally, the houses closest to the corridor would pose a greater risk for humans, but those interested in living in them would be warned of this beforehand. A family with small children or people who leave their pets outside probably wouldn’t want to live in a house closest to the corridor. Knowing the risks before living in the area and designing neighborhoods that take these risks into consideration would greatly reduce human-predator conflicts. Leaving space for wildlife to roam would also lessen the chances of encounters. By planning ahead, we could ensure the success of large predator populations, and in turn, entire ecosystems that greatly benefit from the presence of these keystone species.
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