Breaking barriers: Wildlife crossings help maintain migration corridors

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CAP’s 336-mile system winds across Arizona, bisects the state and thus, creates a man-made barrier to important wildlife corridors. This barrier has the potential to alter migration patterns, segregate populations of wildlife, and restrict access to natural waters.

An environmental impact study was completed prior to canal construction to determine these potential impacts and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations protecting fish, wildlife, and native plants. Several actions were taken as a result of the studies, including constructing wildlife bridges at strategic locations to maintain wildlife migration corridors.

CAP wildlife crossing infographic

There are 30 crossings over the CAP canal; 11 wildlife crossings, 18 game and cattle crossings, and 1 equestrian crossing. Senior Biologist Scott Bryan said the crossings are essential structures on the canal that help to maintain wildlife connectivity and allow for genetic exchange, which promotes healthier and more resilient populations.

The crossings consist of a steel framework for durability, and wooden planks that are covered with natural materials to encourage use by wildlife.

Reclamation biologists, with assistance from Arizona State University, are currently documenting usage of the crossings. Trail cameras capture the traffic, which includes “anything that walks,” such as javelina, mule deer, mountain lions, bighorn sheep and even people. Preliminary findings indicate that these bridges are heavily used by various wildlife species, are functioning as intended, and are critical in ensuring the future of our wildlife in Arizona.