Will Wildlife have a Place in Florida’s Future?

Do you ever wonder about road kill? Seriously. Where was that animal going? Where was its home? Maybe even, what animal was that? I would think that very few of us give any thought to that animal after we drive away. To me, each pile of fur, feathers, or bones I see on the road are a reminder of the perils of wildlife and human interaction.

Many of us are familiar with the stories of our charismatic Florida Panther and Florida Black Bear. These are just two of our species that are severely impacted by the development of our state. These large animals must be constantly on the move in search of food. One study conducted by bear biologist Joe Guthrie tracked a bear for eight weeks. During that time, he covered over 500 miles, spanning an area of roughly 110 miles north to south. M34 may have traveled even further north, but the tracking data indicated he couldn’t find a way to cross Interstate 4. As humans, we all need homes to live in and roads to get around. However, these necessities lead to habitat fragmentation. Animals need room to roam and our way of live typically hinders wildlife’s ability to do so.

Habitat loss and fragmentation seems like an obvious issue to me, but most people don’t give it much thought. One day while getting my hair cut, I got to talking with the hairdresser about how I relocate gopher tortoises as part of my job. She said, “I thought the animals just went somewhere else when something gets built”. It was then that I realized the average person doesn’t give much thought to animals need for habitat. Creatures can just pick up and move when they are surrounded by concrete and cars, the infrastructure we as humans depend on.

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The Florida Wildlife Corridor is a non-profit that aims to raise awareness on this very issue. This is the same organization that put together the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, where four explorers traveled 1000 miles from the Everglades to the Okefenokee Swamp by traversing a network of state owned natural and privately held agricultural lands. The idea is that if people can utilize these undeveloped areas to travel from one large swath of protected land to another, wildlife can do the same. These natural areas need to be conserved to protect the linkages currently in place. Additionally, several critical linkage properties need to be purchased and preserved to generate new wildlife linkages. As part of their campaign to connect undeveloped lands across the state, the Florida Wildlife Corridor has put together a list of 10 ways to help. For more information, check out their website at FloridaWildlifeCorridor.org.

1) Raise awareness

2) Support Florida agriculture

3) Advocate for land protection funding

4) Get involved in a land or water campaign

5) Visit your public lands and share the experience

6) Support Florida greenways and trails

7) Teach someone to hunt or fish

8) Go birding

9) Support smart planning

10) Make a financial contribution to Florida Wildlife Corridor conservation

By maintaining habitat, we can conserve habitat and species for the next generation. First, people need to understand the critical connection between wildlife we all love to see and the habitat they need to survive. So, the next time you see a dead animal on the roadway, let it remind you of the importance of supporting habitat conservation and wildlife corridors.