The use of highway crossings to maintain landscape connectivity for moose and roe deer

University dissertation from Fakulteten för samhälls- och livsvetenskaper

Abstract: Increasingly wildlife managers and land managers are challenged to maintain the viability and connectivity among large mammal populations. Thus, it is important that effective highway crossings are identified and optimized with respect to construction cost, facilitation of ungulate movements, and ability to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. The use of exclusion fencing to reduce ungulate-vehicle collisions is commonly installed along Swedish highways. However, exclusion fences may pose a threat to the viability of wildlife populations because they serve as barriers to individual movements and may limit accessibility to resources. Various types of wildlife crossings intended to reduce road-kills and increase habitat connectivity across fenced highways have been constructed throughout the world. Previous studies have evaluated the importance of structure design and size for many ungulate species, but few studies involved moose (Alces alces) which is the target species for most large ungulate mitigations in Sweden. The results of the studies are intended to facilitate the development of wildlife crossings and conventional road passages to meet ungulate demands.We monitored moose fitted with GPS radio collars and characterized their space and habitat use patterns in southwestern Sweden. Moose had seasonal differences in habitat selection within their home range, and generally preferred clear-cuts and early successional forest, boreal forest, and glades, but avoided agricultural areas and open water. We used infrared remote cameras, track surveys, and GPS telemetry to monitor the use of wildlife crossings and conventional road passages by moose and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). The upgrading of a non-fenced road to a fenced highway with three wildlife crossings decreased the moose movements across the highway by 67-89 %. Overpass use by moose and roe deer declined with increased traffic volume on the highway and both species walked during periods of low highway traffic volumes and shifted to trotting as traffic intensity increased. Low rates of human disturbances and proximity to forest edges increased use of highway underpasses by roe deer. Moose used large underpasses to a higher degree than small.