If you purchased a raffle ticket for the Idaho BHA online raffle back in August, you helped the chapter contribute $5,000 to the County Line Wildlife Friendly Fence Project. This collaborative project, taking place entirely on public lands accessible to hunters and recreationists, is a partnership between Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG), the Bureau of Land Management, grazing permittees and non-profit conservation organizations including Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), Mule Deer Foundation and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. BHA, along with these cooperating partners have made conservation of big game migration corridors and winter range a high priority. Secretarial Order 3362, " Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors", directed state wildlife management agencies to develop action plans that identify five priority areas for managing pronghorn, mule deer, and elk winter range and migration routes. The County Line project, between Fremont and Clark Counties, lies within one of these priority areas called the "Big Desert-Mountain Valley Complex" (see map below)
Big Desert-Mountain Valley Complex- Source IDFG
IDFG elk and mule deer collar data adjacent to the fence (in red)
Source- USDA FSA Aerial Photography
This part of Idaho is also critical calving grounds for the Island Park elk herd, at 4,500 animals strong, and the largest moose migration in the world. Outdated, dilapidated range fences don't just present a direct hazard to wildlife through collision and entanglement. Spatial data collected using GPS collars has shown that linear features like highways and fences negatively impact habitat permeability and impede wildlife from accessing seasonal habitats efficiently. Species like pronghorn in particular have adapted over thousands of years on the deserts and high prairies where they seldom had to leap over obstacles. When approaching a fence at high speeds, pronghorn can usually duck under the bottom rail or wire if it is at least 16" off the ground and preferably smooth wire. Public rangelands in this part of Idaho historically carried tens of thousands of domestic sheep. Land Management agencies and grazing permittees often utilized "woven wire" or other fence material in sheep country that obstructed and altered pronghorn movement. Animals often get tangled up in these fences when forced to jump, especially at the high speeds this unique species is known for.
Photo by Ace Hess
The Idaho chapter is not only contributing funds to this project that will be implemented spring of 2021, we will be utilizing our dedicated army of volunteers to work hand in hand with our partners in the removal and modification of these fences. Stay tuned to our Instagram and Facebook pages as well as this blog for future notifications regarding the County Line Wildlife Friendly Fence Project.