Wildlife Foun­da­tion’s fence pull pro­gram nears 200-mile mark

Manteca Bulletin - - On The Road -

JACK­SON, Wyo. (AP) — A pronghorn lin­gered nearby as Steve Mor­riss re­moved barbed wire from an ob­so­lete fence on the Pinto Ranch in Grand Te­ton Na­tional Park.

“It waited for us to be done, said ‘thank you’ and then went on its way,” Mor­riss said about the en­counter, which hap­pened years ago but left an in­deli­ble im­pres­sion.

He’s been dis­as­sem­bling and bail­ing barbed wire to help wildlife ever since.

For about a decade Mor­riss has been a devoted mem­ber of the Jack­son Hole Wildlife Foun­da­tion’s vol­un­teer fence pull team. The vol­un­teers and staffers re­move and mod­ify fenc­ing that for one rea­son or an­other is no longer needed and cre­ates a hazard for wildlife. As the foun­da­tion ap­proaches its 25th an­niver­sary this year it also nears an­other mile­stone: the re­moval of 200 miles of un­nec­es­sary fenc­ing.

The ef­fort had Mor­riss, 25 other vol­un­teers and foun­da­tion staff in the field on a re­cent Satur­day re­mov­ing al­most a mile of fence from a relic pas­ture near the Wy­oming Game and Fish De­part­ment’s Horse Creek elk feed­ground. They worked at the junc­tion of the Bridger-Te­ton Na­tional For­est and a swath of state-owned land about 10 miles south­east of Jack­son off High­way 89.

Live­stock have stopped graz­ing on the na­tional for­est par­cel, so the barbed-wire fence is no longer needed, said Aly Courte­manch, a Wy­oming Game and Fish wildlife bi­ol­o­gist and Wildlife Foun­da­tion board mem­ber. Re­mov­ing the fence elim­i­nates an ob­sta­cle for mi­grat­ing elk and mule deer, she said.

The three-strand fence was a hazard for an­i­mals try­ing to jump over the fence or crawl un­der it. One by one the strands came out as vol­un­teers pulled gi­ant, rusted sta­ples from wooden posts.

Then they rolled up the wire and hauled it away to be re­cy­cled. The group on Satur­day had me­chan­i­cal as­sis­tance: along with a man­ual wire winder, they also had a Game and Fish power winder at their dis­posal. A small trac­tor turned the winder mounted on its back.

One vol­un­teer, Dick Klene, an 18-year vet­eran of the fence pull team, wel­comed the help. “I know we didn’t have a winder when I started,” he said. Along with re­mov­ing lengths of barbed wire from fences, the team also mod­i­fies fences to pro­tect wildlife in ar­eas where fenc­ing is still needed for cat­tle. Tac­tics in­clude low­er­ing the height of the fence and re­plac­ing the top with ei­ther a smooth wire or smooth wooden pole. They also raise and re­place the bot­tom wire with a smooth wire to pro­tect calves and fawns that might crawl un­der­neath the fence.

Keep­ing barbed wire in the mid­dle of the fence and smooth wires on the top and bot­tom pro­tects wildlife and graz­ing cat­tle. Wild un­gu­lates typ­i­cally go un­der or over fences, but cat­tle try to push through, said Jon Mobeck, the foun­da­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

The non­profit’s goal is to re­duce the to­tal num­ber of ob­sta­cles an an­i­mal might run into along its mi­gra­tion path, Mobeck said. An elk might en­counter 100 fences dur­ing mi­gra­tion, he said, and all those ob­sta­cles add up.

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