Rules of Thumb for Protecting Wildlife During Trail Development

We believe that the best way to protect wildlife from human disturbance, short of population control, is to properly plan trails with wildlife in mind in order to concentrate and guide human activity away from sensitive habitat.

Trails make many positive contributions to conserving nature. They can help:

  • Restore degraded stream corridors and other habitats in the process of trail building;
  • Guide recreationists away from sensitive wildlife habitat and into more adaptable settings;
  • Educate people about wildlife issues and appropriate behavior in the
    outdoors;
  • Build broad constituencies for wildlife conservation by putting people in contact with nature.

Predictability can be a major factor in how much disturbance a trail user causes. If trail users stay on a trail they are more likely to be perceived as acting in a predictable fashion and therefore as less of a threat.

Rules of Thumb.

  • Provide trail experiences that are diverse and interesting enough that recreationists are less inclined to create their own trails and thereby expand the zone of influence.
  • When possible, leave untouched large, undisturbed areas of wildlife habitat. They are an important—and rapidly vanishing resource. Identify and seek to protect all such areas when aligning a trail.
  • Either avoid wildlife breeding areas or close trails through them at the times such wildlife are most sensitive to human disturbance.
  • If there won’t be sufficient resources to enforce a trail closure during wildlife-sensitive seasons, consider rerouting the trail through another area.
  • To prevent weed spread, control aggressive weeds along trails, especially at trail-heads.
  • Design trails with proper drainage and sustainable gradients so users are less likely to trample vegetation along alternate routes.
  • Don’t depend on management to resolve wildlife conflicts that can be avoided by careful alignment in the first place.

Source:  PLANNING TRAILS WITH WILDLIFE IN MIND

TRAILS AND WILDLIFE TASK FORCE • COLORADO STATE PARKS • HELLMUND ASSOCIATES