Landscapes must be permeable to support wildlife populations. With an increasing road network in natural areas, roads serve as filters or barriers to animal movement. Understanding how organisms perceive barriers to movement, or landscape resistance, is important to conserve populations threatened by fragmentation and habitat loss. We focused on an endangered habitat specialist, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), that is threatened by high vehicle-induced mortality. Further, ocelots in the United States (U.S.) occur in a highly fragmented landscape due to extensive urban and agricultural development. We aimed to (1) model probability of use by the ocelot across their known distribution in the U.S. (i.e., South Texas), (2) identify potential movement pathways between predicted habitat patches based on landscape resistance scenarios, and (3) assess which resistance surface best represented landscape permeability. We modeled probability of habitat use via resource selection functions using a 35-year telemetry dataset. We developed resistance scenarios to represent differences in perceived resistance based on probability of use thresholds. We used circuity theory to identify potential movement pathways and to assess which resistance scenario best represented observed habitat use. Connectivity models developed from long-term consistent habitat patches allowed for assessment of resistance scenarios and identification of potential areas for long distance movement. We identified ocelots used areas farther from high traffic roads with high proportions of woody cover, which had implications for potential road crossings. With increasing road networks and traffic volumes, identifying movement paths across this highly fragmented landscape can help reduce mortality for ocelots. Inclusion of mitigation measures, such as crossing structures, into transportation projects may help restore permeability to road networks, indicating the importance of strategic placement. Circuit theory can identify these locations based on resistance scenarios. Department of transportation planners can use this information for existing and planned roadways for ocelot road crossing structure placement.
Wildlife movement: connectivity, safety, across eco-tones
wildlife crossing structures