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Trump takes the gloves off versus Kavanaugh accusers. Also on the Wednesday rundown: rural areas reap benefits from Medicaid expansion; a two-generation approach to helping young Louisiana parents; and a new documentary on the impact of climate change in North Carolina.

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Breaking Travel Barriers for NH Predators Also Protects Humans

Photo: Night-tracking image of bobcat. Motion-activated cameras are recording species that may have conflicts with roads upstate. Photo credit: Nature Conservancy
Photo: Night-tracking image of bobcat. Motion-activated cameras are recording species that may have conflicts with roads upstate. Photo credit: Nature Conservancy
March 19, 2013

CONCORD, N.H. - The same highways that keep Granite Staters connected can also block natural connections for wildlife, a problem local conservationists are trying to solve. According to Dan Corker, a field mapper for the Nature Conservancy, there's a project in the early stages in New England, studying animal traffic patterns for large predators like bobcats and bears to figure out where human intrusions cut off natural connections.

"This is part of a big regional project that the Nature Conservancy is part of, that stretches all the way from the Tug Hill area across the Adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire, Northern Maine and into Quebec," as Corker described it.

Corker said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is helping to fund research for the project, called the "Staying Connected Initiative." He said the effort, which involves two countries and more than 80 million acres, will help safeguard wildlife in the Northern Forest.

Some of the most extensive tracking is underway in the Adirondacks. According to the Nature Conservancy's Alissa Rafferty, they will use the findings to work with the State Transportation Departments to propose cost-effective changes that can be made during routine maintenance.

"How to facilitate passage for wildlife and also make it safer for people" are the objectives, she said. "So, options like increasing culvert size, creating strategic fence breaks, and putting up signs for motorists are just some examples."

Rafferty said the animal traffic is tracked using motion-detecting cameras and a very old-fashioned and economical method: paw prints in the snow.

"It's amazing how snow cover can really act as a blank canvas, and potentially anything that moves across it, is recorded for us to see," she remarked.

Rafferty said the species they are studying move over great distances for at least part of the year for a variety of reasons, following food sources, finding mates, and, potentially, in response to the environmental effect of climate change.

More information is at tiny.cc/l2d3tw.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH