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WAPA members survey along the
fence remnant, seen in lower
right frame.
WAPA members tour the trap
fence on the ridge top.
WAPA members receive orientation
 to the site, with trap fence
remnant seen in foreground.
Group photo.
The entire survey team of WAPA members, Central Wyoming College students and Ute Tribe
representatives, along with the
 pronghorn antelope mascot.

BLM & volunteers collect information on antelope trap site
in southwest Wyoming

On September 18, the Kemmerer Field Office and 35 volunteers from the Wyoming Association of Professional Archaeologists, Central Wyoming College and the Ute Tribe conducted an intensive on-the-ground inventory of the Bridger Antelope Trap site about 25 miles south of Kemmerer. About a dozen projectile points and fragments were collected.

The Bridger Antelope Trap is an early historic pronghorn hunting site in southwest Wyoming that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The construction, maintenance and use of the trap would have been a communal effort of fairly large groups of Native Americans who were known to congregate at Fort Bridger during the late nineteenth century. The trap was constructed from small trees and large limbs cut from the surrounding juniper stands, and stacked into waist-high fences. During each hunting event, groups of antelope would have been hazed down the valley through fence wings where they would have moved parallel to the fences and into an enclosure. The strategy for the trap took advantage of the pronghorn’s natural reluctance to jump over objects. Once in the enclosure, they would have been shot with arrows and darts from hunters stationed on the outside of the enclosure fence. Other tribal members could have served as live components of the trap, staying hidden behind the fences until the animals were near enough to be spooked by their presence, when the people would have actively hazed the animals into the enclosure.

What's left today are the deteriorated remnants of the trap fences, where old juniper wood is strewn on the ground surface in alignments that describe the outline of the trap’s components. Archaeologists suspect that a large portion of the trap was collected over the years for firewood by sheepherders who camped annually in this area. Because the wood is being lost through collection and natural deterioration, the BLM decided to conduct the tree ring study while there are still enough viable sources of trap wood to provide data.

Indiana State University Biogeography and Dendrochronology Laboratory is doing the study and have collected a total of 200 tree ring samples which are currently being analyzed. The samples include cross section samples from the old fence wood, and core and cross section samples from live juniper trees and sagebrush. Preliminary analysis of samples collected in 2008 and 2009 produced an early date of A.D. 1754 in the master chronology from live juniper. While the analysis of samples from the old trap wood was inconclusive due to the weathering and poor preservation, a preliminary estimate places earliest use of the trap in the late 1600’s or early 1700’s.

The BLM has continued to study the archaeological materials at the trap. The inventory of 50 acres resulted in the collection of about a dozen projectile points and fragments from within and around the trap fence. The assemblage of dart and arrow points suggests the trap had been used much longer, back into the Late Archaic Period several thousand years ago.

Last updated: 12-22-2010