HELENA, Mont. – Millions of antelopes roamed the West freely. But obstacles like roads and fences, as well as climate change, threaten the future of the species.
A new web map explores the journey of the American antelope as it migrates through the western prairies.
Andrew Jakes – regional wildlife biologist in the Northern Rockies, Prairies and Pacific offices for the National Wildlife Federation – said the American antelope needs connected habitat to thrive. And he noted that the American antelope isn’t the only one thriving thanks to habitat connectivity.
“Having a healthy and resilient ecosystem equals having healthy and resilient rural communities,” said Jakes. “It’s like having clean water. It’s just like having really hardy wildlife populations within these different ecosystems.”
The website, known as “StoryMap”, is called On the Move and tracks the migration of antelopes from spring to winter. It was put in place by the National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy.
Jakes said as many as 30 million antelopes roamed the West. After almost disappearing at the start of the 20th century, the number is now close to one million thanks to conservation efforts.
Kelsey Molloy is a range ecologist for The Nature Conservancy. She said a range of animals benefit from grassland conservation.
“It’s not just the antelope that benefits when we modify a fence,” Molloy said. Mule deer also benefit. And when we make sure a ranch stays intact, that means prairie birds benefit as well. Everything is therefore linked. “
Jakes said it’s worth thinking about the landscape as a whole. He said the American antelope and other moving wildlife don’t question whether they are on public or private land, in the United States or Canada.
“So it’s worth working with all of these different entities to support this really important ecosystem,” Jakes said.
Jakes noted that the grasslands are the most endangered ecosystem in the world.
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