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Using environmental features to model highway crossing behavior of Canada lynx in the Southern Rocky Mountains

Posted date: January 10, 2017
Publication Year: 
2017
Authors: Baigas, Phillip E.; Squires, John R.Olson, Lucretia E.; Ivan, Jacob S.; Roberts, Elizabeth. K.
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Landscape and Urban Planning. 157: 200-213.

Abstract

Carnivores are particularly sensitive to reductions in population connectivity caused by human disturbance and habitat fragmentation. Permeability of transportation corridors to carnivore movements is central to species conservation given the large spatial extent of transportation networks and the high mobility of many carnivore species. We investigated the degree to which two-lane highways were permeable to movements of resident Canada lynx in the Southern Rocky Mountains based on highway crossings (n = 593) documented with GPS telemetry. All lynx crossed highways when present in home ranges at an average rate of 0.6 crossings per day. Lynx mostly crossed highways during the night and early dawn when traffic volumes were low. Five of 13 lynx crossed highways less frequently than expected when compared to random expectation, but even these individuals crossed highways frequently in parts of their home range. We developed fine- and landscape-scale resource selection function (RSF) models with field and remotely sensed data, respectively. At the fine scale, lynx selected crossings with low distances to vegetative cover and higher tree basal area; we found no support that topography or road infrastructure affected lynx crossing. At the landscape scale, lynx crossed highways in areas with high forest canopy cover in drainages on primarily north-facing aspects. The predicted crossing probabilities generated from the landscape-scale RSF model across western Colorado, USA, were successful in identifying known lynx crossing sites as documented with independent snow-tracking and road-mortality data. We discuss effective mitigation based on model results.

Citation

Baigas, Phillip E.; Squires, John R.; Olson, Lucretia E.; Ivan, Jacob S.; Roberts, Elizabeth. K. 2017. Using environmental features to model highway crossing behavior of Canada lynx in the Southern Rocky Mountains. Landscape and Urban Planning. 157: 200-213.