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Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park. Craig Zerbe / iStock / Getty Images

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 a wildlife crossing.

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 a wildlife crossing.


What is a wildlife crossing?

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.

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.

Which wildlife species use wildlife crossings?

Wildlife crossings help many different species, from muskrats to mountain lions ─ and yes, even Marty Moose! (The moosiest moose we know…)

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.

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.

Where can we see a wildlife crossing?

Trisha White

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:

Mountains

The Montana 93 overpass.

Kylie Paul

Are you motoring through the many mountains of Montana? Drive U.S. Highway 93 across the Flathead Indian Reservation to see the most extensive wildlife-sensitive highway design effort 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.

Eastern Shore

Maryland State Highway Administration

On your way to the beach, you may choose the 18-mile Intercounty Connector (ICC). Opened in 2011, the ICC has ten underpasses providing safe passage for deer, foxes, raccoons, groundhogs, skunks, snakes and great blue herons.

Hollywood

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 Harbor Boulevard Wildlife Underpass, 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.

So after you drop off Aunt Edna in Phoenix, skip the house of mud and learn more about keeping wildlife on the move while you’re waiting in line at the world’s second largest ball of twine. Have a great summer!

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Denali national park. Domen Jakus / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

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.

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.


Here are 5 ways to celebrate our national treasures:

1. Kick off the week with free entry to all national parks on Saturday, April 20. 

Grand Teton National Park.

David Keener

The National Park Service offers 5 free entry days 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 Find Your Park website and make plans today!

2. Take photos of wildlife (from a distance).

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

The wildlife that call our national parks their home can be cute (like the American pika), majestic (like the Florida panther), or just plain weird-looking (like the roseate spoonbill). They’re great subjects for amateur and professional nature photographers alike. Just remember tokeep your distance and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

3. When you’re there, look for butterflies.

A pipevine swallowtail butterfly in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Jenny Pansing

These beautiful creatures are particularly photogenic. Species like the monarch butterfly 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? Be a butterfly hero!

4. Use digital tools to engage with the natural world.

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, there are plenty of resources that can help you use your devices to better understand the world around you, including Google Earth! Movies, magazines, games, and apps offer a variety of options, too.

5. Can’t make it to the parks in person? Journey in your mind to these breathtaking destinations.

Denali National Park.

Stokes Clarke

Sometimes there’s not enough time or money to get to the parks in person. We’ve compiled some incredible photos from entrants to our photo contest for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home.

The best way to celebrate our national parks is to take care of them.

From successfully advocating for the reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to opposing mining plans next to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the National Wildlife Federation is a leader in protecting our public lands for wildlife and future generations of Americans.

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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

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!


Here are five gifts ideas that will help you provide the basics of habitat for wild birds right outside your door and to create a wildlife habitat garden that will provide year-round habitat for bird and other backyard wildlife. When you provide food, water, cover and places to raise young and maintain your yard or garden naturally, the National Wildlife Federation will recognize it as a Certified Wildlife Habitat in our Garden for Wildlife program.

The items below from National Wildlife Catalog will help you meet the basic requirements to certify your garden for wildlife–plus all the proceeds of sales go directly to support our wildlife conservation programs.

1. Birds Seed Wreath

Native plants are the best way to provide the seeds, nuts, berries and insects that wild birds rely on for food. But a few feeders can supplement those natural food sources and help attract birds for you and your family to enjoy. Our bird seed wreath is perfect as a holiday treat. It’s made with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower and red millet seeds that most seed-eating birds will enjoy. Plus, it’s decorative.

Get the Bird Seed Wreath here.

2. Birdbath De-Icer

Birds need water year-round, both for drinking and for bathing to keep their feathers in good condition. When the temperatures dip below freezing, finding a water source that isn’t frozen becomes difficult. If there’s no snow on the ground for birds to consume as a liquid source, they risk dehydration. Keep birds happy and hydrated during periods of freezing temperatures with our birdbath de-icer. Constructed of patented cast aluminum for efficiency and safety, this de-icer is thermostatically controlled to operate only when necessary. The 150-watt de-icer is fully grounded with a three-prong cord and is safe for all birdbaths.

Get the Birdbath De-Icer here.

3. Roosting Box

Just like us, birds seek shelter when the weather turns bad. This roosting box provides protection from the winds, heavy rain and bitter cold for many backyard birds including wrens, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and bluebirds. The entry hole located at the bottom of the front panel is protected by a slate guard to keep squirrels from gnawing it open. The three internal perches can accommodate 6 or more birds. Handcrafted in Maine from eastern white pine.

Get the Roosting Box here.

4. Nesting Box

Nesting boxes, also known as birdhouses, are used by cavity-nesting birds as a place to raise their young. Wrens are some of the easiest birds to attract to a use a nesting box. It’s important to install nesting boxes by February so that they are in place when wrens begin scouting out potential nesting spots in late winter or early spring. This box is made of kiln-dried hardwood and decorated with a purple coneflower design with non-toxic water-based paint. The box hangs with the metal chain from a tree or bracket, and opens easily to clean out.

Get the Wren Nesting Box here.

5. Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons

Excerpted from the pages of the award-winning National Wildlife® magazine, each article in Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons® combines compelling narrative from world-class writers with stunning images and practical, step-by-step tips on topics ranging from wildlife garden design and choosing the best bird houses to helping monarch butterflies, providing wildlife with water in winter and attracting native bees and pollinators to help gardeners grow bigger, better fruits and vegetables.

Get Wildlife Gardening: Tips for Four Seasons here.

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