While we often contemplate the human impact of placing walls on the border of the United States and Mexico, the consequences to the local wildlife are often overlooked. A political divide is not the same as an ecological one; species that have lived on both sides of the border have no knowledge of the arbitrary line in the sand.
Putting up walls may not be a good immigration policy, unless Americans are really just looking to keep out “foreign” critters. Although humans can often find ways to surmount the fences anyway, the animals are unable to get around them, forcing them to adapt to a new, more limited environment.
Many creatures rely on the Rio Grande as their main source of fresh water, so having their supply cut off by a fence is fatal. Here are five animals that have been especially impacted by the border walls:
Biologists at the University of Bristol conducted a study that found that the puma population all but disappeared from former habitats that had a giant wall put up. The animals need adequate space to roam, so having their area divided in half forces them to look for space elsewhere.
The same biologists found that coatis, creatures often compared to raccoons, were even more affected by fences. Since coatis are unable to travel very far, the scientists worry that the fences will lead to a “collapse in [the coatis’] population.”
3. Pygmy Owls
Though you might imagine that birds can just fly over fences, since these small owls spend most of their time flying at levels below the top of the security walls, they are effectively trapped on one side or the other. Experts worry that blocking the flow of pygmy owl migration will ultimately eliminate the existence of these birds in Arizona.
4. Bighorn Sheep
Sheep populations that once mingled freely are now involuntarily divided into two groups. As a result, the genetic diversity that has been credited with the species’ long term survival is jeopardized. While some fences do include small holes for tiny animals to pass through, none of them can accommodate something the size of the sheep since it would allow humans to pass through as well.
When the government erected a border fence by the South Texas Wildlife Refuge Complex, Mitch Sternberg, a biologist tasked with tracking local bobcats by electronic collar, found just how devastating the construction was for the animals. Without proper room to roam, the bobcats moved on to less safe, human-populated territories where vehicles inevitably killed many of them.
Clearly, the walls aren’t just separating human families – they’re separating animals from their communities, as well.