Species and demographic responses to wildlife‐friendly fencing on ungulate crossing success and behavior

Josiane Segar, Aidan Keane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fencing is a ubiquitous part of the landscape across the Great Plains of North America. This can fragment habitats and reduce the ability of wildlife to move between patches. A relatively novel conservation tool aimed at mitigating these impacts is the use of wildlife‐friendly fencing. However, there is still an incomplete understanding as to how this tool affects ungulate movement and whether it increases habitat connectivity across barriers. Using camera trap data from three properties across the American Prairie Reserve, Montana, we investigated the effects of fencing on four ungulate species. Averaged across species and demographics, this wildlife‐friendly fencing design increased the probability that ungulates successfully crossed a fence by 33% and reduced the time taken to cross by 54%, but has limited effects on species' crossing behavior. Responses to the wildlife‐friendly fencing differed between species, sex, and age class. The greatest improvement in permeability was detected for mule deer, females, and juvenile groups. Yet, permeability remained lowest for elk, juveniles, and males overall at both fence types. Understanding these differences between groups is important when improving or selecting fence designs, and we highlight vulnerable groups that may require further study when implementing this conservation tool.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConservation Science and Practice
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sep 2020

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