The Canada Lynx Chooses to Cross the Road at Night Where There Are Big Conifers Nearby

For wild animals, human disturbance and habitat fragmentation can make moving around their home range more difficult. Carnivores are particularly sensitive. Researchers in the Southern Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA have found that resident Canada lynx are minimising the risks of the road by mostly crossing two-lane highways during the night and early dawn when traffic volume is relatively low, and they cross fairly frequently (approximately every other day). Using GPS data of lynx locations, the team found that the lynx were selecting crossing sites where there was vegetation (including large conifer trees) close to the road. This preference is probably because of greater security cover and higher densities of snowshoe hares, one of their prey species.

The predictions made by the researchers’ computer model were similar to what they saw on the ground from snow tracking and road mortality data. They therefore, suggest that it is possible to predict road crossing sites for resident Canada lynx, which could aid highway planners in finding ways to reduce mortalities and other negative effects of roads. Specifically, the research indicates that promoting forest cover immediately adjacent to highways may increase the ability of lynx to move across these roads. Further, driving slower at night may reduce mortalities from collisions with vehicles. Under- or over-passes may also be warranted to make the landscape more permeable, note the researchers.

Fact source: Baigas, P. E., et al. (2017). Using environmental features to model highway crossing behavior of Canada lynx in the Southern Rocky Mountains.

Image credit: Zach Miles / Unsplash.


Submitted by: Nathan, UK

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