Improve Refuge Boundary Fence for Pronghorn Antelope Migration
Tags: pronghorn migration routes, sagebrush, pronghorn, habitat conservation project, wildlife, Habitat
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) established a boundary fence in 1997 to prevent range cattle from grazing refuge habitat. The fencing contract specified a wildlife friendly configuration that included a smooth bottom wire no less than 16 inches above the ground. The nearly 100 mile boundary fence was completed for a total cost of $565,000. Approximately, 155,000 feet (~29 miles) of fence require adjustments to facilitate pronghorn migration. New fence construction currently costs about $1.00 a foot. However, since the existing fence is still in good condition, only the first two wires need to be adjusted with the bottom smooth wire no less than 16 to 18 inches above the ground ($0.40 per foot). This project will also include 10 new doublewide gates ($550 per unit), requiring less manpower than drop down fencing, which can be opened over the course of the winter when cattle are not present.
Seedskadee NWR was established in 1965 to mitigate the loss of habitat that was inundated by the construction of the Flaming Gorge and Fontenelle dams. Seedskadee NWR is located along a 37 mile extent of the Green River, just below the Fontenelle dam. The Refuge manages over 26,000 acres that comprise wetlands, riparian, and sagebrush steppe habitats within the Wyoming Landscape Initiative project site.
Wyoming Game and Fish conducted a study in 2003 investigating highway right of way fencing and the influences they may pose to North American Sublette pronghorn antelope migration in Southwest Wyoming ‚Ä" Sweetwater and Lincoln counties. D. Sheldon discovered that 42 collared pronghorn modified their migration routes where fences were present (D. Sheldon, 2005). Although the Refuge fence is wildlife friendly, data revealed that animals were going around or along fences rather than crossing them. Pronghorn mortality has been passively observed along certain sections of the boundary fence. In response, the Refuge staff began seasonally opening gates and lowering drop down fences over the winter. In 2005 the Refuge staff surveyed the western boundary fence, near the migration study area, and discovered several areas where the bottom wire was 10 inches or less from the ground. Modifying the Refuge‚Äôs existing fence line and installing wide gates in strategic areas will reduce known impacts on pronghorn antelope migration.