Fencing in rural areas can be bad news for big game. As animals such as deer and pronghorns try to access feeding areas, calving areas and migration routes, they sometimes can be caught in barbed wire fencing, which can be a mortal entanglement.
That is why conservation and wildlife groups banded together Saturday to modify or remove around 600-700 feet of fencing on the Buford Foundation, a large swath of land between Laramie and Centennial. About 40 people representing the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Wyoming Conservation Corps, Laramie Rivers Conservation District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Buford Foundation property owners and The Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society at the University of Wyoming traveled to the property to help out the wild animals.
“If an elk is jumping over, it can be entangled, causing mortality and suffering,” said Chamois Andersen, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. “Making the fences wildlife-friendly while still allowing the ranching community to maintain their livestock is the ultimate goal.”
Andersen was working with a group of 10 people removing a fifth barbed wire from about 160 feet of fence. Though the fence was made with a 12 inch gap from the ground with a barbless wire, the property owners and ranch hands at the Buford Foundation noticed big game were getting wrapped up in the fence. Removing the fifth wire should minimize the risk, Andersen said.
She said it was a great opportunity for folks that work with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to do work in the field.
“We work on a lot of policy and resource management plans, but it’s great to actually get out here and do on-the-ground conservation work,” Andersen said. “To have our member citizens helping with Wyoming Conservation Corps tools and guiding us along the way is a great cause.”
Evan Townsend, a crew supervisor with the Wyoming Conservation Corps working on the fence Saturday, said it was a feel good project, but also one that gives the group’s members much-needed work in the field.
“We’ve been doing interviews all week for members, and that’s one of the biggest selling points we have: some of the work we do translates directly into jobs as public land managers in Wyoming,” Townsend said. “It’s in Wyoming’s interest to have boots on the ground with experienced people. For public policy decisions as well, it’s important for them to know what those decisions mean.”
A lot of the work Wyoming Conservation Corps members do during their summer projects deals with making fences wildlife-friendly. Wyoming Conservation Corps Assistant Director Patrick Harrington said doing so achieves the goal of connecting young adults to land management experiences.
“Our job is to train them for the work they do when they take the first step into the real world,” Harrington said. “Experiences like this not only afford them the opportunity to work on projects with real, tangible benefits, but also lets them interact with some of these folks from different agencies.”
The commitment of the people involved to wildlife and conservation was evident in the good turnout, Andersen said.
“It says they really care about our wildlife resources,” she said. “They want to see these big game animals healthy and not injured. We all banded together because all these groups have similar goals in terms of wildlife preservation, and it’s a great partnership for the community.”
Saturday’s project was the first of several similar projects the groups plan to collaborate on through the spring and summer.
“There will be a lot of opportunities to help make these fences wildlife-friendly,” Andersen said.
Andersen said people can learn more about the projects by going to www.wyomingwildlife.org.