Context. Infrastructure development in ski-resort areas has led to the modification of slopes and, often, the replacement of native plant species with exotic grasses. Modified ski slopes are effectively linear areas of disturbance that separate natural habitat and provide barriers to the movement of native animal species. To overcome these barriers, boulder-filled and culvert-style wildlife crossings have been constructed across disturbed ski slopes and under roadways to facilitate the movement of small native mammal species among areas of remnant habitat, but generally they differ in size and locality. The use of boulder-filled and under-road culvert crossings of different length has not been evaluated.
Aims. We determine whether fauna utilise wildlife crossings in ski resorts and whether variations in crossing length influence the species using the crossings.
Methods. We monitored boulder-filled crossings of two size classes (long or short) biannually from March 2009 to April 2013, using hair tubes. We monitored an additional two under-road culvert crossings with remote infrared cameras.
Key results. The results indicated that all crossings, regardless of size, are utilised by small mammals. However, we detected threatened species, such as Mastacomys fuscus (broad-toothed rat), more frequently in crossings of greater length.
Conclusions. To maintain linkages for small-mammal populations within ski resorts, we recommend the continued use of boulder-filled crossings on ski slopes. These crossings may be particularly important in facilitating the movement of small mammals across wide areas of ski-slope disturbance.
Implications. The context and maintenance of crossings is likely to be important for their long-term use by small mammals, as are complementary strategies to restore structural habitat connectivity on ski slopes, such as strategically implemented native vegetation plantings.