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Impacts of residential development on ungulates in the Rocky Mountain West


  • Associate Editor: Nielsen


Rural residential development in the Rocky Mountain West of North America is resulting in increased conflict between ungulate habitat and infrastructure. Subdivisions, houses, and roads affect ungulates both behaviorally and demographically and reduce management options available to agencies. These habitat alterations need to be addressed if wildlife species are to coexist with humans. We reviewed literature (using 7 search engines and 16 key words) on the effects of land-use change (especially residential development) on elk (Cervus canadensis), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), white-tailed deer (O. virginianus), American pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), and bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Approximately 80 studies were directly related to the effects of human development on ungulates; however, only 25 specifically examined residential development and its influences on the focal species. Studies varied in methodology (i.e., aerial and ground surveys, pellet counts, movement rates) and analyses. The literature suggests most ungulates exhibit short-term behavioral reactions to human disturbance. However, few studies link these responses to population-level consequences or test the cumulative impact that multiple developments and development types (i.e., roads, housing, industrial development) have on seasonal habitat use and migratory behavior. Short-term and small-scale observational studies have articulated the conflict between humans and ungulates on shared habitat. Those studies need to be followed with well-designed experiments and large-scale multi-jurisdictional projects so that managers and planners can make more credible recommendations to direct future exurban development that benefits wildlife and humans. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.