Cody Field Office’s National Public Lands Day event makes a difference for pronghorn herd

Story and photos by Sarah Beckwith, public affairs specialist, Wind River/Bighorn Basin District

During a National Public Lands Day event held on Sept. 17, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming Cody Field Office, the community, and partners of the Absaroka Fence Initiative (AFI) made a difference for the Carter Mountain pronghorn herd. The fence modification project was located on BLM-managed land on Y U Bench, southeast of Cody, Wyoming.

BLM Wildlife Biologist Destin Harrell points out on a map to volunteers where the Carter Mountain pronghorn herd travels.
BLM Wildlife Biologist Destin Harrell, who is also an Absaroka Fence Initiative project manager, shows volunteers where the Carter Mountain pronghorn herd travels.

Working together, the group modified three miles of barbed wire fence, making it easier for the large pronghorn herd to travel between summer and winter ranges. Volunteers replaced the low barbed wire strand of the fence with a higher smooth wire, allowing pronghorn to cross safely under the fence. The general fence condition was also improved for livestock functionality.

“Thousands of pronghorn use the Y U Bench area and need to cross this fenceline,” said AFI Project Manager Destin Harrell, a wildlife biologist with the Cody Field Office. “The smooth wire reduces the barrier and the cuts pronghorn get when attempting to go under a low barbed wire fence.”

Two volunteers roll up a barbed wire strand into a circle.
Volunteers roll up a portion of the removed barbed wire strand.
Three volunteers kneeling down and working on the fence by replacing the low barbed wire strand of the fence with a higher smooth wire.
Volunteers replace the low barbed wire strand of the fence with a higher smooth wire, allowing pronghorn to cross safely beneath it.

More than 40 people volunteered for the family-friendly project. All participants received a National Public Lands Day t-shirt and an AFI hat.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate National Public Lands Day than by working side-by-side with the community to make a valuable contribution to wildlife habitat,” said Alicia Hummel, chair of AFI and BLM Cody Field Office range management specialist.

A volunteer looks on as two younger volunteers work with a tool on the fence.
BLM Range Management Specialist Alicia Hummel, who is also chair of the Absaroka Fence Initiative, offers support to volunteers.

AFI is made up of landowners, community members, non-governmental organizations and local government agencies in Park County, Wyoming. Collaborators target where fencing can be improved to have the greatest impact on wildlife migration while still functioning to effectively manage livestock. BLM partners in AFI include the Shoshone National Forest, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, The Nature Conservancy, Wyoming Migration Initiative and Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Volunteers pose for a group photo wearing blue National Public Lands Day t-shirts
Group photo of the volunteers at the BLM Cody Field Office’s National Public Lands Day event held on Sept. 17.

Learn more about AFI at: www.absarokafenceinitiative.org