Advances in Securing Connectivity for Jaguars Along Expanding Highways of fhe Sky Islands of Mexico

Juan Carlos Bravo, Wildlands Network, Mexico
Cecilia Aguilar, Wildlands Network, Mirna Manteca, Sky Island Alliance, Eugenio Larios EcoGrande, Ricardo Felix EcoGrande
Topic Area
Partnerships and Collaborative Approaches for Improving Transportation Ecology

PREVIOUSLY PRESENTED TOPIC: This presentation contributes new field data and updates on advocacy.

INTRODUCTION
To address the growing threat to jaguars and other carnivores posed by the expansion of Highway 2 in the Sky Islands region of Sonora, Mexico, including a new bypass across the private conservation area El Aribabi, collaborators are advancing research and advocacy in support of wildlife crossings. Understanding of mitigation needs - initially based on a first roadkill monitoring effort and landscape level connectivity models - is being refined.

METHODS
Wildlands Network continues to lead a partnership of key stakeholders of Mexico and the United States and, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and from Mexico's federal Secretariat of Communications and Transports (SCT), we've been able to refine our understanding of where wildlife crossings are needed, through the first camera-trapping effort focused on highways in this region of Mexico, and the creation of a full inventory of drainages and bridges in the Sky Islands stretch of Highway 2. In parallel, we have increased our traditional and social media presence with news releases, interviews and infographics, attracting the attention of decision makers.

RESULTS
We finalized an inventory of over 700 existing drainages and bridges that can inform efforts to retrofit existing structures to create wildlife crossings. We also finalized the second yearlong roadkill monitoring effort identifying the 500m sections of the highway that concentrate more wildlife records. We obtained the first camera-trap records of cougar, bobcat and other wildlife using drainages to cross a highway in this region. We successfully advocated for the re-routing of the El Aribabi bypass and continue to provide feedback for its improvement. Finally our media work has raised the issue's visibility and now lawmakers are advocating for wildlife crossings in Sonora.

DISCUSSION:
Three sections of Highway 2 continue to stand out for their large numbers of roadkill, two of them montane areas of importance to large mammals and a third area of importance to birds and smaller mammals. The hundreds of drainage infrastructures of varying sizes provides us with an opportunity to make Highway 2 more permeable to wildlife. Camera traps give evidence of wildlife using these drainages, and support recommendations to retrofit them to create wildlife crossings.

CONCLUSION:
Continued data-collecting and advocacy work is necessary to secure commitments and funding to establish wildlife crossings. In the absence of collard animals providing direct information of wildlife movement, a collection of other data helps narrow down sections in need of mitigation. Elevating the issue of habitat connectivity requires a combination of the right conditions and much previous work.

Abstract Keywords
Wildlife Crossings
jaguars
Mexico
Sky Islands
International collaboration