By Steve Goodman, Volgenau Wildlife Research Fellow with National Parks Conservation Association & Co-research Lead for the Pigeon River Gorge Wildlife Connectivity Study
Though the target species of our Safe Passage research are black bear, elk and white-tailed deer — selected because they are relatively easy to monitor and are of the highest concern from a driver safety perspective — they’re not the only animals we’ve studied through this project.
We’ve also collected data on mesocarnivores, which are small to mid-sized mammals whose diets are mostly comprised of other animals, and we are assessing their needs for safe passage under Interstate 40 as well. Mesocarnivores in our study area include bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, long-tailed weasels, otters, raccoons, red foxes and Eastern spotted skunks.
While improving safe passage for larger mammals should, in general, benefit smaller critters too, several mesocarnivores have very specific requirements that we also must consider when planning new structures or improving existing ones.
We also always work on increasing our understanding of the needs of even smaller animals — like frogs, salamanders and snakes — but that is for a future blog.