The idea that roads are bad for wildlife has been supported scientifically and said so many times that it has been taken as gospel by most westerners.
Grizzly bears and elk in particular, benefit from roadless areas mostly because a lack of roads means a lack of hunters. Standards limiting the miles of roads per square mile are one of the most important management tools wildlife officials have to increase populations of both animals in the Northern Rockies.
But what’s good for the grizzly is not necessarily good for the moose.
A new study, published in Biology Letters by Joel Berger of the Wildlife Conservation Society, in Teton Valley, Idaho, says moose in Yellowstone hang around roads to protect their calves. In other words, the moose have learned to use the bear’s own aversion to roads as a survival technique.
Canadian biologists attribute the same behavior to elk and bighorn sheep in Banff National Park.
This interplay between predators and prey and us underscores the roles people play in wild ecosystems. There are few, if any places we aren’t involved in some way.
Our own encounters with nature, no matter how subtle or sensitive are not necessarily benign.