Over the weekend of April 22 & 23, Colorado's Habitat Stewardship Coordinator, CPW Biologist Brian Holmes, and BHA volunteers ripped out one mile of fence that was impacting wildlife movement and overlapping with high priority elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and greater sage grouse habitat. This winter was a particularly difficult winter for elk, deer, and pronghorn in the Northwest. With snow in low elevation wintering habitat at above average depths many animals starved to death unable to access typically food sources, others died from vehicle collisions as plowed roads were the easiest way to travel as well as to bed down, and many also died from fence entanglements either too weak to jump or unable to gain purchase to clear the wire. This became apparent as we drove to and from work sites. We passed over 10 dead animals caught in fencing which solidified for all of us the importance of this work.
We started both days with a visit to one of Moffat county's greater sage grouse leks.
Our volunteers woke up before the sun to watch these amazing birds strut their stuff. It's safe to say we weren't disappointed and even had an unexpected sighting of a couple burrowing owls living adjacent to the lek. Northwest Colorado is home to the largest population of greater sage grouse in Colorado and this became apparent after seeing 97 strutting males on a single lek.
We then headed to the Rio Blanco State Wildlife Area where we removed old woven wire with 2-3 top barbed wire strands paralleling highway 84
Once we finished with that section we headed to a wetland area within the SWA where 4-strand barbed wire fencing had been overwhelmed with willows and was almost invisible in some places.
We removed a half-mile of fencing on Day 1!
Day two we visited a friendly landowner who is entering into a conservation easement with CPW. He is a proud landowner and wildlife conservationist with a property loved by many species. In the Winter months it is not unusual to see 400 head of elk on the property and in the spring he has birders from all over the world come to see the sharp tailed grouse and greater sage grouse leks on his property. At the ripe age of 86 he can't possibly accomplish all he would like to improve his property for wildlife and we were happy to lend a hand.
There were multiple signs of wildlife conflict with the fencing
At times it was slow going as sage had grown around and into the fencing, even absorbing it in some instances.
On Day 2 we removed another half-mile of fencing. We couldn't have asked for a more hardworking team!
A huge thanks to all of our volunteers, we are so grateful to have folks who are willing to do this hard but rewarding work. And a big thank you to Brian Holmes for sharing his slice of paradise with us, being an excellent wildlife guide, and for everything he does for wildlife. Also, thank you to Bar-U-Eat and the Colorado Chapter for feeding and taking good care of our volunteers!
If you'd like to participate in a BHA fence pull or stewardship event be sure to check out our event page. Or if you would like to host your own or know of some fencing that might be a candidate for removal please reach out to [email protected]