Wyoming officials are asking motorists to use caution as antelope begin their annual winter migration. The warning comes after multiple collisions with antelope on Wyoming Highways 189, 372 and 374, on Interstate Highway 80 at the Granger Interchange, the Highway 372 Interchange, at Covered Wagon Road and on US Highway 30—both south and northwest of Granger, Sweetwater Now reports.
“Poor visibility, coupled with slick roads this winter, have made it challenging for both motorists and wildlife,” said Green River Wildlife Management Coordinator Mark Zornes. “The 2019-20 winter is shaping up to be a long and cold one and pronghorn are moving to traditional crucial winter ranges, as conditions worsen. [Antelope], occasionally vary the distance they move in winter depending on weather conditions and snowfall patterns. While they return to winter ranges used for eons, they often vary the segment they choose to use in any given year, moving to avoid the worst conditions. However, the urge to migrate is as strong for this species as it is for mule deer, salmon and caribou, and is not something that can be altered by man.”
Industrial and residential development projects, highways and fencing all impact migration routes. With a higher than normal number of antelope-vehicle collisions already in the books, Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials have been trying to slow traffic and use other methods to keep the migrating antelope away from motorists. Unfortunately, they’ve also had to euthanize injured antelope, according to Sweetwater Now.
“[Antelope] are arguably one of the more difficult wild animals to ‘herd’ and a species more prone to blind panic than others,” Zornes said. “During efforts to remove [antelope] from a right-of-way (ROW), traffic often cannot be stopped or delayed. One ill-timed “drive-by” during a herding effort can result in panic and wild running ([antelope] can run in excess of 50 mph) from fence line to fence line, usually resulting in dead or injured pronghorn and vehicle damage. “
Because of this, officials typically open a ROW to allow the antelope a way out at their own pace.
“We recommend wide-fenced ROWs, which allow these animals to feel less restricted and is proven to reduce collisions,” said Zornes. “Regularly and often spaced-paired gates provide some of the best options for crossing and reduces time pronghorn must spend within the ROW. We also recommend fences be equipped with a bottom wire (smooth is best) height of at least 16 inches, allowing pronghorn to crawl under (since they prefer not to jump). During some winters, snow conditions can negate this opportunity if snow is deep and crusted.”
With multiple migration studies underway, for now, motorists: stay vigilant while driving through key migration routes.