Wildlife Friendly Fencing Modification on the Gas Hills Highway

On May 1, 2024, BHA habitat stewardship staff joined Biologists and seasonal field staff to modify barbed wire fence along the Gas Hills Highway outside of Lander, Wyoming. This BLM boundary fence was installed over 70 years ago; as a result, it was not built with wildlife friendly practices in mind. This is a story that is consistent across the intermountain West. The impact of this project was three-fold considering it borders crucial winter range for pronghorn, sage-grouse core area and presents a serious migration barrier. 

 

In this case, modification entailed converting fencing into 4 strand barbed wire with smooth bottom wire and increasing the distance between the bottom wire and the ground to 16" to increase mule deer and pronghorn permeability.

 

In damaged sections of fence or areas where wash-out erosion had created gaps below the bottom wire, signs of  concentrated wildlife crossing were readily evident. Swaths of tracks narrowed to single file to utilize the crossing point and large tufts of fur hung from barbs where pronghorn had scraped their backs while attempting to squeeze underneath. 

 

Several wildlife friendly H-braces had already been installed with game cameras recording them to study their effectiveness in terms of the animals ability to find and utilize them. The BLM is in a constant balancing act to both serve the public interest, in this case, maintain exclusionary fence for grazing permittees, as well as be good stewards of the animals that call our public lands home.

 

Ultimately, 3 miles of fence were converted to wildlife friendly arrangements with plans to return to convert an additional 3 miles during the Fall of 2024. BHA is proud to collaborate on this major step in a multi-year, multi organization project to decrease human impact on the landscape and improve our public lands. 

About Andrew Hahne

Habitat Stewardship Coordinator (MT, WY, ID) for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

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