A dangerous chokepoint that migrating antelope encountered each year just west of Nashua now has one less hazard the animals will have to contend with.
Old woven-wire and barbed wire fencing strung for about a mile along U.S. Highway 2 has long served as a potential barrier for pronghorn and other wildlife trying to cross the busy road and get over an adjacent set of Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train tracks.
In fact, ground on both sides of the old fence -- which was removed by a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 6 crew and others on Aug.11 and 12 – is littered with skulls and skeletons of all sizes of antelope that didn’t make it through the man-made gauntlet.
Instead of jumping fences, most pronghorn prefer to go under them whenever they can. But that’s not possible with sheep-style fencing that has heavy-gauge wire panels right to the ground.
“Recent research conducted by Andrew Jakes, in cooperation with FWP, shows that migrating pronghorn are prone to being delayed in specific locations -- usually by fence lines -- during their migration,” said FWP Glasgow-area biologist Drew Henry. “We especially saw that during the harsh winter of 2010-11, when hundreds of pronghorn died across Region 6 because of impassable fences, deep snowdrifts, and getting hit by cars, trucks and trains.”
Henry said the Nashua location was identified through that research, and also by travelers along Highway 2, where the halted antelope were often forced to stage.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can to clear away obstructions so pronghorn don’t waste costly days during their annual migrations,” Henry explained.
The property where the old fencing was removed is owned by Valley County, Jim Strodtbeck and Jason Sauer, who gave their permission to proceed with the project. The FWP crew was assisted by Glasgow-area residents Darvin Henry, Bob Kemp Jr., and Andrew McKean and his son, Merlin, as well as Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation employees Matt Poole and Marc Kloker.
Nearly 7,000 feet of woven wire and about 3,000 feet of four-strand barbed wire fence – along with scores of metal posts -- were taken down and hauled out of the area. All of the wire and posts will be recycled.
“Special thanks to everyone who participated,” Drew Henry said. “It’s the type of project that benefits wildlife right from the start, and for years to come.”