Room to roam, to eat, to sleep, to raise a family
The animals that inhabit the Northern Appalachian/Acadian region need room to move to meet their basic life needs: to find food and breeding areas, for migration between winter and summer habitats, and to disperse to new territory. Large animals such as black bears can range up to 10 miles (16 km) in a single day, and up to 40 miles (64 km) over the course of a season, while even smaller predators like fisher can cover three or four miles a day. Otters need 15 to 30 (24 to 48 km) miles of good-quality stream to meet their life needs.
Many species have rebounded over the last half century. Moose have returned to the Adirondacks, and other parts of the region, from small populations that persisted in Vermont, Maine and Canada. Canada lynx populations have increased in Maine, New Hamsphire and Vermont in recent years, augmenting much larger populations in northern New Brunswick and Quebec.
The resurgence of species such as moose and lynx is good news, and is a testament to the value of keeping big habitats connected. Moose likely recolonized the Adirondacks via the small threads of habitat that link Vermont’s Green Mountains with the Adirondacks across the lower Champlain Valley. Lynx have used the nearly uninterrupted forests of northern Maine, New Hamphshire and Vermont to make their westward progress. And keeping these big habitats connected could benefits species like the wolf and cougar which, though eliminated in the 19th century, keep trying to make a comeback.
Preserving Natural Pathways
Given the wanderlust of wildlife, scientists and conservationists are exploring ways to preserve natural pathways that provide migration routes between wild habitats. Typically, such pathways traverse both public and private lands. Wildlife movement between distinct populations helps maintain genetic variation, which is critical to the health of a species. Without genetic mixing, a species may suffer from inbreeding, which can lead to harmful recessive traits that limit its ability to respond to disease.