By Trisha White
It is now officially summer and that means many Americans are packing up the family truckster like the Griswolds and taking the tribe cross country. Whether you're on your way to America's favorite family fun park or a national park, staying in a motel or sleeping under the stars, you may be seeing wildlife in their native habitat. And if you keep your eyes open, you might see a special part of our built environment ー a wildlife crossing.
What is a wildlife crossing?<p>Wildlife crossings are clever, man-made structures built over or under highways that allow animals to cross the roadway without having to enter the right of way, preventing deadly accidents. In addition to preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions, they reconnect habitat that has been carved up by roads, allowing animals to move safely around their habitat. <br></p><p>Unless you know where to look, you might not even notice them. Crossings may seem like a regular overpass or underpass from the road, but they have vegetation and other habitat features to make them more inviting for animals.</p>
Which wildlife species use wildlife crossings?<p>Wildlife crossings help many different species, from muskrats to mountain lions ─ and yes, even Marty Moose! (<em>The moosiest moose we know…</em>)</p><p>Since animals can be picky about what kinds of structures they will use, crossings are specifically designed to fit snugly into the landscape around them, and are custom made for the species that will use them. Some critters that are more adaptable, like coyote and deer, will take to crossings right away, while others may take longer to get used to them. After all, the crossings are a new experience for them and can be scary at first. <br></p><p>Biologists believe each species' preferences are based on their environment and how they evolved. For example, ungulates with antlers (deer, elk, moose) prefer open structures like an overpass. Smaller animals that are used to more cover are more comfortable in small crossings like a culvert. Eventually mother animals teach their young to use them, passing along the intergenerational knowledge just like other behaviors.</p>
Where can we see a wildlife crossing?<p><br>Although wildlife crossings are relatively new to the U.S., we have them from coast to coast. Here are just a few examples you might see this summer near popular destinations:<br></p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2NzgyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDEzODU4Mn0.rgvn4L-GUuExYz7eJVfBNuhfwOQttCyQNo5ip4ytHWc/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e47e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="97de1e2ba5563dd81ddc4e6347087aef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Mountains<p>Are you motoring through the many mountains of Montana? Drive U.S. Highway 93 across the Flathead Indian Reservation to see the <a href="https://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/us93info/wildlife_crossings.shtml" target="_blank">most extensive wildlife-sensitive highway design effort</a> in the U.S. to date. A whopping 81 wildlife crossing structures were built over a 76-mile stretch of highway, keeping 25 species safe, such as elk, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, grizzlies and black bears.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2NzgyNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzQ4MDEyMH0.hVpWPlx6IUj0yQIdzqVoQ25UNWdlrKiNflbLh2NpKr8/img.jpg?width=980" id="da5de" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ea7af2c298ee6f379a439f22473c9e62" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Montana 93 overpass.
Eastern Shore<p>On your way to the beach, you may choose the 18-mile <a href="https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/environment/bs-xpm-2011-01-02-bs-gr-wildlife-highways-20110102-story.html" target="_blank">Intercounty Connector (ICC)</a>. Opened in 2011, the ICC has ten underpasses providing safe passage for deer, foxes, raccoons, groundhogs, skunks, snakes and great blue herons.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2NzgyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDE4NjQ1NX0.85oS0KHMFu7FKiBupK05JZIyk_QgMEPL0Kk9812zAuM/img.jpg?width=980" id="36a07" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="67e00cab72ab523cbf39a6f968a35000" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Maryland State Highway Administration
Hollywood<p>Wildlife in La-La Land? You bet! While you're stuck in traffic on the 405, wildlife will be cruising along the 31-mile stretch of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife corridor. Along the way, they will pass through the <a href="https://www.habitatauthority.org/harbor-boulevard-wildlife-underpass/" target="_blank">Harbor Boulevard Wildlife Underpass</a>, connecting 4,600 acres of protected habitat to the west with 14,000 acres to the east. Built in 2006, the underpass serves mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels, opossum, raccoons and jackrabbits. Without it, many of these species would have been trapped on the west side of Harbor Boulevard and possibly extirpated.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU2NzgyMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NjAyNTAxNX0.ncmVXt_CWenixMMwVxNpEwgFiRp7PuJc6tMm4GSOrU4/img.jpg?width=980" id="879db" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc722664e1e624e56ccacff4db41d9ea" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Stephanie Gagnon
Happy National Parks Week! This year, between April 20 and 28, escape to the beautiful national parks — either in person or in your imagination — and celebrate the amazing wildlife that calls these spaces home.
1. Kick off the week with free entry to all national parks on Saturday, April 20.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNTkzOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzEyNzI1NX0.WwT5QsWAcjIgOOYkA2ZTBodc4hJ5Dg6aZo1kRhWECSk/img.jpg?width=980" id="10ece" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5de2975a261635b32faaa538c31ac585" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Grand Teton National Park.
David Keener<p>The National Park Service offers <a href="https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/fee-free-parks.htm" target="_blank">5 free entry days </a>each year, where fees to enter the park are waived. This is a great opportunity to visit your first national park and see what the buzz is about. Check out their <a href="https://findyourpark.com/" target="_blank">Find Your Park website</a> and make plans today!</p>
2. Take photos of wildlife (from a distance).<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNTk0My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzAzMzYwMX0.HVHEl9teame5yoLzSMB9pHgQ9XF_5nI6L1m9VJfska0/img.jpg?width=980" id="3e6fa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2a5b8166ef82e3ce99db4f895196872d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Roseate spoonbills feed in Florida's shallow waters by swinging their heads from side to side and sifting muck with their flat bills.
Jenni Kerteston<p>The wildlife that call our national parks their home can be cute (like the<a href="https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/American-Pika" target="_blank"> American pika</a>), majestic (like the <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Florida-Panther" target="_blank">Florida panther</a>), or just plain weird-looking (like the <a href="https://blog.nwf.org/2013/02/photo-of-the-day-quick-snack-for-a-roseate-spoonbill/" target="_blank">roseate spoonbill</a>). They're great subjects for amateur and professional nature photographers alike. Just remember to<a href="https://blog.nwf.org/2019/02/get-outside-and-enjoy-wildlife-from-a-distance/" target="_blank">keep your distance and be aware of your surroundings at all times</a>.</p>
3. When you’re there, look for butterflies.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNTk0OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTAwOTE2N30.Nqu6kcEu-xor7H2_iq0HdDtacBHYIk01JypbVQofeO4/img.jpg?width=980" id="6c0d1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="95316146fbfac418ae8c76bb87324db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A pipevine swallowtail butterfly in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Jenny Pansing<p>These beautiful creatures are particularly photogenic. Species like the <a href="https://blog.nwf.org/2016/04/monarch-butterflies-in-national-parks/" target="_blank">monarch butterfly</a> can be observed in National Parks all over the country, while other species may be localized to one region. Want to take it one step further? <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Butterfly-Heroes/Heroes" target="_blank">Be a butterfly hero</a>!</p>
4. Use digital tools to engage with the natural world.<p>A visit to the national parks is a great way to spend some time away from screens enjoying the benefits of fresh air and beautiful sights. But if your family has trouble unplugging, <a href="https://blog.nwf.org/2018/09/when-nature-and-digital-screens-click/" target="_blank">there are plenty of resources</a> that can help you use your devices to better understand the world around you, including <a href="https://email@example.com,-28.11246453,-15485.90139803a,25524970.08886814d,35y,0h,0t,0r/data=Ci0SKxIgMzVhNjc1YmQ0NjVjMTFlOTg0Yjg1NTMyNWRjMDk2MzQiB3ZveV90b2M" target="_blank">Google Earth</a>! <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Educator-Tools" target="_blank">Movies, magazines, games, and apps</a> offer a variety of options, too.</p>
5. Can’t make it to the parks in person? Journey in your mind to these breathtaking destinations.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNTk1NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxOTU0MzE3OX0.J8gF7-Sp6jGXSPWvxN_YS3yuCAxa2fbGCYYOdLzwFcE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b7248" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dbd7fb27008ea85ce56c59083365cae8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Denali National Park.
Stokes Clarke<p>Sometimes there's not enough time or money to get to the parks in person. <a href="https://blog.nwf.org/2014/04/the-grandeur-of-our-national-parks/" target="_blank">We've compiled some incredible photos</a> from entrants to our <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/Photo-Contest" target="_blank">photo contest</a> for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home.</p>
The best way to celebrate our national parks is to take care of them.<p>From successfully advocating for the <a href="https://blog.nwf.org/2019/03/lwcf/" target="_blank">reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund</a> to <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Home/Latest-News/Press-Releases/2019/01-31-19-Sulfide-Mining" target="_blank">opposing mining plans next to Minnesota's Boundary Waters</a>, the National Wildlife Federation is a <a href="https://www.nwf.org/Our-Work/Our-Lands/Public-Lands" target="_blank">leader in protecting our public lands</a> for wildlife and future generations of Americans. </p>
By David Mizejewski
The holiday season (or any time of the year) is a great time to give gifts that help out your local wild birds. Even if it's a gift for yourself!
By David Mizejewski
Want to help bees?
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By Alyson Merlin
The scale of global conservation can seem daunting, and it is hard to incorporate the fight against global deforestation into our daily routines. If you want to help, but don't have the stored-up vacation days to participate in on-the-ground activism, the National Wildlife Federation has good news for you! The places where you rest your feet after work or school—from fancy sectionals to self-assembled futons—are actually key to saving the world's forests!
By Jane Kirchner
Right now, more than a 150 species of birds are on their way northward from tropical wintering grounds to take advantage of emerging insects, budding plants and an abundance of nesting locations. While larger birds tend to travel during daylight hours, songbirds and smaller species fly at night and will stop off and stick around for a day to eat and build up fat stores before continuing their journey. The best time to see and hear them in your yard is the first two hours after the sun rises!
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By Lisa Moore
Imagine yourself, camera in hand, suddenly spotting a grazing elk, a hummingbird feeding its chicks, a grizzly charging a rival or a bumble bee gathering pollen. You want the shot, but how do you get it without disturbing the natural behavior of the beautiful animal you're hoping to capture through your lens?
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By Beth Wallace
In June, the state of Michigan released a draft report on alternatives to Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline, which pumps up to 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids (NGLs) per day along the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac. The draft report, written by Dynamic Risk, was met with heavy criticism from all sides, and the National Wildlife Federation joined with many others to suggest numerous and substantive changes. On Nov. 20, the final alternatives report was released to the public. As per an agreement with the state to obtain funding for the report, Enbridge has had five days to review this report before it is released publicly.
An aging oil pipeline moves 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids per day along the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron crash into each other in the heart of the Great Lakes.
By Anne Bolen
On Aug. 21, for the first time since 1918, a total solar eclipse will cross the U.S. from coast to coast. Along the path of totality, the moon will completely block out the sun, turning day to twilight for nearly three minutes. While a partial eclipse will be visible throughout the U.S., millions will be flocking to spots along the path of totality, which begins in Salem on Oregon's coast about 10:15 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time and exits the nation at Charleston, South Carolina, where maximum coverage will occur about 2:47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Perhaps no other natural event will inspire so many people to go outdoors.
By Cindy Hudson
Winter and spring in Oregon can be cold, wet and muddy, but thanks to seed grants from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), 10 schools in the Portland area are learning the joys of getting outside and getting their hands dirty despite weather conditions.
By David Mizejewski
The annual population status report for the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has been released showing a 27 percent decrease from last year's population.
Why Millions of Monarch Butterflies Are Dying in Mexico - EcoWatch https://t.co/YV0SIMKksW @Greenpeace @HuffPostGreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473300040.0
Populations of this once-common iconic black and orange butterfly have plummeted by approximately 90 percent in just the last two decades. The threats to the species are the loss of habitat in the U.S.—both the lack of availability of milkweed, the only host food plant for monarch caterpillars, as well as nectar plants needed by adults–through land conversion of habitat for agriculture, removal of native plants and the use of pesticides and loss of habitat in Mexico from illegal logging around the monarchs' overwintering habitat. The new population numbers underscore the need to continue conservation measures to reverse this trend.
A Look at the Numbers
The population is evaluated by measuring the number of hectares occupied by the monarch butterflies in their overwintering habitat in Mexico. This year there are an estimated 109 million monarchs occupying just 2.91 hectares (7.2 acres), down from 150 million last year covering 4.01 hectares (9.9 acres).
The monarch population found west of the Rockies, which migrates to California rather than Mexico, has also severely declined but looks to have remained at the same level as last year.
Despite the alarming overall decline in the monarch population, there is some reason to be cautiously optimistic about efforts to help monarchs. Shortly after last year's population numbers were released, severe late-season storms hit monarch overwintering sites in Mexico, which scientists estimate killed anywhere from 7.4 percent of the population to as much as 50 percent of some of the overwintering colonies. This mortality was not reflected in the official population number last year, meaning that far fewer monarchs actually survived to migrate north in the spring of 2016.
In the best-case scenario of a 7.4 percent mortality, the monarch population that actually migrated north was just 139 million, not 150 million and so only decreased by 22 percent rather than the 27 percent based on pre-storm population numbers. In the worst-case hypothetical scenario of 50 percent mortality from the storms, only 75 million monarchs would have survived to migrate north in 2016 but were able to build up their population to the current number of 109 million, showing a possible 45 percent increase in population.
Whether it was favorable weather conditions throughout the rest of 2016 or the restoration of habitat for monarchs across the U.S.—or both—these various scenarios show that if given the right conditions and habitat, the species has the potential to recover.
Get Involved to Save Monarchs
Even so, in any scenario, the species' population remains dangerously low. Immediate action is needed to protect and restore monarch habitat. The good news is that on the local level, individuals can get involved by planting native milkweed and nectar plants right in their own yards.
The National Wildlife Federation is a member of the Monarch Joint Venture, a coalition of groups working together to save monarchs and has made monarch conservation a priority, working to recover the species in the following ways:
Mayors' Monarch Pledge
The National Wildlife Federation has engaged more than 260 mayors and other community leaders in pledging to restore monarch habitat by planting milkweed as a caterpillar host plant, nectar plants for the adult monarchs, eschewing pesticides and other actions that support monarch populations. These cities and municipalities in the monarchs' main migratory flyway, from Austin, Texas to the Great Lakes, are committing to create habitat and educate citizens about how they can make a difference at home.
Get involved in the Mayors' Monarch Pledge.
Garden for Wildlife
This signature program educates millions of Americans each year on how to restore habitat for birds, butterflies such as the monarch and other wildlife right their yards, gardens and neighborhoods. The National Wildlife Federation recognizes such garden spaces as Certified Wildlife Habitats. More than 200,000 Certified Wildlife Habitats have been designated in suburban yards, community gardens, schools, places of worship, parks, botanic gardens, zoos and other public spaces. Entire communities, cities and counties such as Austin, Texas and Broward County, Florida have achieved Certified Community Wildlife Habitat status.
Get involved in Garden for Wildlife.
Monarch caterpillar in a Schoolyard Habitat in Connecticut. Linda Swenson
National Pollinator Garden Network
The National Wildlife Federation has helped convene an unprecedented number of conservation and gardening organizations, as well as garden industry members, to launch the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a campaign to raise awareness on what Americans can do to help pollinators and register a million pollinator and monarch friendly gardens by the end of 2018.
Learn more about the National Pollinator Garden Network.
Large Landscape Habitat Work
The National Wildlife Federation is working with partners in the agriculture industry to establish more monarch-friendly practices such as adding preserving native plant buffer zones around fields and riparian areas, adjusting mowing schedules and spraying practices to minimize impacts to pollinator habitat. We are also working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, our state affiliates and state Wildlife Agencies to create state plans to conserve grasslands, establish power line right of way habitat and promote roadside habitat planting along monarch's main migratory route.
Learn more about Large Landscape Habitat Work.
INSPIRING! This Guy Just Revived a #Butterfly Species in His Backyard https://t.co/TkAj9Qc1QH @sierraclub @NWF @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1471789769.0
This annual campaign aims at engaging kids and families in butterfly conservation. Participants pledge to plant butterfly gardens and receive a starter kit from the National Wildlife Federation which includes native milkweed or nectar plants for monarchs and educational and how-to information on creating a butterfly garden. This spring the campaign kicks off on March 27 and goes through May 19.
Get involved in Butterfly Heroes.