Important wildlife habitat is rapidly lost or fragmented in the course of urban development, oil and gas exploration and extraction, and the conversion of land to agricultural uses.
Some of the damage to wildlife is visibly the result of humans encroaching on wildlife habitat. For example, reptiles and rodents—including their nests and young—may be destroyed during the construction of a new subdivision; birds and rodents are routinely poisoned on agricultural lands and in suburban yards; and individual animals are killed by vehicles on roads that increasingly crisscross wildlife habitat.
The indirect consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation may be less obvious but often carry grave consequences for animal welfare and for conservation. Maintaining functional ecosystems often requires the protection of vast expanses of land to meet the minimum habitat requirements of the largest, most widely roaming members of the ecosystem, including top carnivores such as eagles and cougars or large migrating herd animals such as elk.
In nations such as the United States, there are already few areas of undeveloped wildlife habitat large enough to allow for wildlife population sizes sufficient to maintain genetic variability. Many wildlife populations may dwindle to a handful of individuals living in isolated pockets of habitat, separated by obstacles such as high-speed roadways and sprawling urban and suburban development.
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