Wildlife On The Move, Observe and be Careful
The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) are reminding drivers throughout the state to be extra cautious right now and especially watchful of moose, elk, deer, pronghorn and even bears wandering on roads and highways.
Because they are so tall and heavy, most cars that collide with a moose are totaled and the animal often lands on the passenger compartments. Drivers are cautioned to do all they can to avoid hitting any animal, especially a moose.
Scientific Name: Genus Odocoileus
There are two species of deer in Colorado. Mule deer “mulies” have rope-like tails, evenly forked antlers and extravagant ears. White-tails have smaller ears, antlers with a single main beam bearing smaller tines, and , of course, broad white tails. Mule deer bound with stiff-legged gait, the tail held down; white-tails move with a graceful lope, the flag-like tail held erect.
Both species of deer are four to six feet long and stand three feet or more high at the shoulder. Weights of large bucks range over 400 pounds, but does are only half that size. Adult males begin to grow antlers in spring, used in a clash for dominance and breeding rights in autumn. Antlers are then shed in winter.
The wapiti, or elk, is the largest of Colorado’s native deer (seven to nine feet long, with a four to six inch tail, and weighing 450 – 900 pounds). Commonly called “elk” in this country, wapiti is a preferred name because elsewhere in the world “elk” refers to the animal we call moose. Our wapiti is a Holarctic species, which means it occurs in both North America and Eurasia; in Eurasia it is known as the red deer. Whatever we choose to call it, this is an impressive and important animal in Colorado. The wapiti is brownish tan in color, with a yellowish rump and a dark mane on the shoulders. Mature males have large antlers, typically with six tines branching from each beam.
This is the time of year when it is especially important for drivers to be cautious by obeying speed limits, being aware of their surroundings, and observing signs warning of wildlife activity. For your own safety stay alert and watch the roads carefully.
During wildlife migration season, motorists are urged to follow these important safety tips:
1. Slow down and stay alert, especially through these and other signed wildlife crossing areas;
2. Scan the roadway and roadsides ahead for signs of movement; watch for shining eyes of animals that reflect car headlights at night;
3. Do not swerve but rather brake gradually, maintaining control of the vehicle.
Migrations in the Western U.S.
Keith Aune Senior Conservation Scientist, Wildlife Conservation Society Elizabeth Williams GIS contractor, Williamson GIS, LLC
Wildlife migration is a spectacular biological phenomenon that can be witnessed by people around the world. It resonates with our own human history and the migration of people across continents and time. The regular migration of animals, especially birds, has aroused the curiosity of humans since our African genesis. All hunting and gathering societies certainly have known about and perhaps depended upon the movement of animals across land or water. Many cave paintings of animals relay ancient knowledge of animal movements. There are several early written references to the periodic movement of birds in the Bible, and other recorded observations of animal migration date back nearly 3,000 years to the times of Homer, Herodotus, and Aristotle. Humanity has long been aware of the spectacle of animal migration but, until now, had limited understanding of the biological and ecological significance of these migrations. Even today, despite diminished connections between man and nature, the annual synchronized movement of millions of animals captivates the public imagination like few other wildlife phenomenon.
Migration is the seasonal movement of animals (individuals, populations) across land or seascapes that may differ by sex, age, or environmental conditions: yet the core pattern of movement returns to a central area, either by individuals or across generations. It is a complex behavior that is governed by a number of traits that have varying degrees of genetic control and context sensitivity. This constellation of traits includes navigation, timing of migration, site fidelity, social behavior, and morphological and physiological adaptations for migration.
Migration behavior has both cost and benefit for animals and defining the exact nature of the tradeoffs has proven elusive. This balance is delicate, however, and changes in land use or other external environmental factors can easily tip the balance for or against migration. Pending changes in climate and increased human occupancy of natural landscapes are significant factors influencing the persistence of migration behaviors.
Even though migration is a spectacular biological event we should never lose sight of its even greater ecological significance. Migrants serve as seasonally abundant predators (many raptor species) grazers/browsers (caribou, elk and deer), prey (many ungulates and birds), pollinators (bats, birds and insects), and seed dispersers (many ungulates, bat and bird species). The migrant and its habitats are delicately co-evolved to this seasonal movement and important services that one species provides to another in the ecological system.
There is a growing concern that populations of migratory animals are declining globally Conservationists have long argued the importance of protecting migratory corridors and dispersal of wildlife. However, long distance migration in terrestrial vertebrates has become a highly fragile ecological phenomenon. Long distance migration events are quietly disappearing due to human population growth and the habitat degradation and fragmentation caused by land use changes.
Read this entire report here.