One of The Nature Conservancy’s goals in Massachusetts, and across the Northeast into Canada, is the creation of a wildlife corridor: a network of large connected ecosystems where wildlife can move freely without being inhibited by major roads. Conservancy scientists have been working to protect such a corridor in western Massachusetts, where land has high integrity, resilience and connectivity (see green portion of map above). As efforts to secure this area continue, the Conservancy is getting help from creatures that know the region best.
Sustainable hunting policies and forest regrowth have helped moose populations in Massachusetts rebound from near zero 50 years ago to a current population of around 1,000. Twenty of these moose were fitted with radio collars by the UMass Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, who recorded the animals’ locations every couple of hours for up to two years.
“The movements of these moose prove that we’re on the right track with our conservation efforts,” says Jessica Dietrich, GIS manager for the Conservancy in Massachusetts.
The moose stayed almost entirely within the connected landscapes the Conservancy had modeled—avoiding major roads and often crossing smaller roads at predicted locations.
“We’ll use this information to refine habitat protection priorities and inform collaboration with transportation departments to improve connectivity for animals, Dietrich said.”
Connectivity projects will be increasingly critical for wildlife, including wide-ranging species like moose, because these animals will need to move in response to climate change.