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Miles City Field Office
Release Date: 01/17/13
Contacts: Mark Jacobsen    

Landowners Encouraged to be Mindful of Migrating Wildlife, Fences

MILES CITY, Mont. --- The BLM is encouraging landowners to be mindful of migrating big game and possible conflicts with fencing as winter progresses and snow levels increase.

Landowners are encouraged to open gates or lay down fencing wherever possible so deer, antelope and elk can avoid entanglement or “yarding up” and succumbing to exposure, starvation or stress.

Deep, drifted snow may render some fence types impassible. If the animals don’t find a way around to more favorable terrain, the results can be disastrous. This is particularly true of antelope, said BLM Biologist Jesse Hankins of the Miles City Field Office.

“In extreme winter conditions pronghorn aren’t able to drift ahead of the severe weather to more favorable habitat conditions, especially where woven wire fences are involved,” said Hankins. “Drifting snow can get up to heights where the pronghorn can’t go under the fence; and if the snow drifts tall enough -and where they don’t have the natural inclination to jump- that’s where you come into big winter mortalities.”

“In times when you don’t have livestock on either side of the fence, leave those gates open; they will pace the fence line looking for an opportune place to cross—either at a low spot or a wire that’s hanging or a gate,” said Hankins.
“Leaving places for wildlife to pass through fences easily can lead to less annual fence damage, especially when elk are the species crossing the fences,” said Cathy Stewart, spokesperson for Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region Seven. “Easy wildlife passage through fences ultimately means less work for the landowner, too.”

The seasonal reverse is also true, said Montana FWP Region Seven Supervisor Brad Schmitz. Deep, crusted snow can allow wildlife to cross fences in the winter, but once the snow is gone it can be a different story.

“Population loss for a region can happen by winter kill or winter time herd migration,” said Schmitz. “Those same fences can be problematic as wildlife try to migrate home again.”

The BLM is employing local contractors or contributing funds to willing permittees to remove, modify or replace fences on BLM-administered land that don’t meet the bureau’s wildlife-friendly fence configuration of four wires; three barbed upper wires and one smooth bottom wire –for exterior allotment boundary fences.
Recently, Houston-based pipeline company TransCanada worked with 13 Carter County landowners to replace about 23 miles of woven wire near the company’s Bison Pipeline right-of-way. TransCanada coordinated its fencing criteria and configuration with landowners, the BLM and Montana FWP.
According to TransCanada spokeswoman Gretchen Krueger, rancher Ralph Brownfield was the first to participate in the fence replacement program and had 1.7 miles of fence reconfigured under the program. Brownfield has a 15,000-acre hay and cattle operation crossed by the Bison natural gas pipeline.

For more information on wildlife-friendly fence modifications contact BLM Wildlife Biologist Jesse Hankins at 406.233.2800. For additional ideas on how to design, construct or modify fencing to avoid conflict with wildlife, the booklet entitled “How to Build Fence with Wildlife in Mind” is available from your local FWP office or from the BLM Miles City Field office.

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The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Miles City Field Office   111 Garryowen Road      Miles City, MT 59301  

Last updated: 01-17-2013