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Wildlands Network Gets Support to Make Mexico’s Highway 2 More Wildlife Friendly

A crew member in a green bucket hat and a white jacket records data on a clipboard while standing next to a small underpass by the side of the highway.
A crew member surveys an underpass along Mexico’s Highway 2. Photo: Ricardo Felix

Wildlands Network is hitting the road this month to inventory potential sites for new wildlife crossings along Highway 2, which roughly parallels the U.S.-Mexico border, in the Sky Islands of Sonora, Mexico.

With a grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders Program and a contract with the Mexican environmental consultancy BIIA (Biología Integral en Impacto Ambiental) to implement funding from Mexico’s federal transportation authorities, we are inventorying every bridge, culvert and drainage underneath Highway 2, between the town of Ímuris and the state limit with Chihuahua. Our goal is to figure out which structures on the highway already exist along known wildlife corridors and could be retrofitted to serve as safe wildlife crossings.

A large spotted cat walking across rocky ground
A wild jaguar photographed by a remote camera. Photo: Northern Jaguar Project/Naturalia

Our Borderlands Program seeks to preserve wildlife connectivity in the Sky Islands, a region shared by the states of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. An important part of this effort is advocating to make Mexico’s Highway 2 more wildlife-friendly, as it bisects the Sky Islands and represents a major obstacle to the migration, dispersal and adaptation of many species, including jaguars, black bears, cougars and Mexican wolves.

We’ve put a group of young biologists from Sonora to work in creating an inventory and full description of each structure built within a 150-mile stretch of the highway, much of which is being widened or turned into a four-lane highway. Their effort will be followed by more intensive wildlife monitoring, using camera-traps and other techniques, to determine which animals already manage to get safely across the highway.

Cloven hoof prints are visible in grainy sand near a concrete underpass.
Crew members spot animal tracks near one of the highway’s underpasses. Wildlife are already using these passageways to cross the highway safely. Photo: Ricard Felix

We’ve already found encouraging evidence of wildlife using existing bridges and culverts, indicating relatively small investments could turn some of them into fully functional wildlife crossings. Our findings here also support a case against further fragmentation, such as that caused by border fencing and mines. 

If you know the area and care for these species, be sure to help us by sharing your sightings and experiences of wildlife on this and nearby highways. As we get down to ground level on this project, we’re hopeful that, together with local land owners and transportation authorities, we can make Mexico’s Highway 2 a safer place for jaguars and all the other wildlife of the Sky Islands. 

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