The age-old migration of pronghorn in Wyoming, one of the longest migrations of land animals in North America, will be safer for both pronghorn and humans this year. Two new wildlife overpasses and a series of underpasses designed to save the pronghorn and other animals from deadly interactions with traffic have been completed in Sublette County. They’ll be put to the test as the herd moves south to its wintering grounds.
The unique remedy, funded by the Wyoming Department of Transportation, emerged after NFWF supported research in 2009 to identify threats to pronghorn. That analysis determined that the mammals’ habitat and migration had been severely affected by development and natural resource extraction in the region. Already under stress, the pronghorn were being killed and injured as they crossed highways, endangering both the persistence of the herd and human safety.
Jon Beckmann is a field ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which conducted the study under the NFWF grant. He says that protecting the 125-mile migration route is crucial as pronghorn habitat continues to shrink. “Almost 75 percent of the pronghorns’ long-distance migration routes have been lost,” he said.
Carly Vynne, director of Wildlife and Habitat Conservation for NFWF, recently visited Highway 191 near Trappers Point, Wyoming, where one of the overpasses is located. She reports that biologists will be watching the migration closely to gauge how the pronghorn react to the new structures.
Over the last eight years, NFWF has supported a multi-tiered approach to saving the Path of the Pronghorn. After convening initial discussions in 2005 with federal and state agencies, NFWF began a wider examination of the loss of habitat for pronghorn. In 2008 and 2009, it funded extensive modifications to fences on private lands to ease the migration. In 2010, NFWF supported a permanent easement on priority lands surrounding the route, the 2,500-acre Carney Ranch, through the Acres for America program.
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