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A migration corridor is the pathway big game — like mule deer, pronghorn, elk, moose or bighorn sheep — use to travel from summer range to winter range. Wyoming is home to some of the longest big game corridors in the nation and they help make the state unique. Multiple animals must use the same route or pathway for it to be considered a migration corridor. Wildlife migrations to winter ranges begin in October and they return to summer ranges beginning the following April. In Wyoming, corridors are crucial for the well-being of wildlife, so the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, along with research partners, study these bi-annual journeys to ensure corridors continue to function as important habitats in the future.

It wasn’t until the last several years that biologists could confidently plot the migration corridors big game animals, like mule deer, were hoofing it on using nearly identical routes. Projects like the Mule Deer Initiative and the University of Wyoming’s Migration Initiative helped fit deer with GPS collars and sparked a plethora of geographic data collection showing how deer migrated. In turn, that data revealed places where migration was challenging due to issues like bottlenecked passageways or roadway barriers and an increased threat of collisions with vehicles.

Some migration corridors in Wyoming are classified as “vital habitats” under the department’s Corridor Strategy. With this designation, the Game and Fish, in consultation with stakeholders, conducts a risk assessment that land managers and others can use to evaluate development and identify conservation measures. Even if an area is designated, the public is still able to hunt, watch wildlife and recreate on those landscapes.

 

Will Schultz
Game and Fish staff biologist

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