Infrastructure improvement made on open range to help big game migration
Pinedale habitat and access biologists have solved one of the area’s more complex riddles: what can you build on the Wyoming open range that lasts centuries and allows for wildlife to pass easily? The answer– a wildlife friendly fence made out of pipe.
A four-mile-long pipe fence was installed on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Fall Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Area (WHMA) and is estimated to last 100 years or more.
The pipe fence was a crucial infrastructure addition within the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration route along the foot of the Wind River Range. The fence will enhance 760 acres of habitat on the Fall Creek WHMA, and in particular, will retain native plant forage necessary for wintering elk. The Red Desert to Hoback corridor is the longest mule deer migration route ever recorded in the lower 48 states.
The $129,600 pipe fencing project is a result of two years of hard work and strong partnership support. Wildlife friendly fencing is key to allowing deer, pronghorn and elk to pass safely. The Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Fund (WWNRT) allocated $55,000 for the project. Questar Exploration and Production (QEP) and Jonah Energy also donated 2,000-35 foot sections of old drill pipe valued at approximately $25/section, totaling $50,000. The value of the pipe has since gone up to $45-$50 per section today. The Game and Fish also contributed $74,600 of which $18,400 came from the Game and Fish wildlife trust fund.
“The fence allows safe wildlife passage in and out of the Wildlife Habitat Management Area. The area is important because it serves as an elk feedground in the winter, so elk are regularly moving in and out,” Miles Anderson said, the Game and Fish habitat and access supervisor in Pinedale. “This style of fence is an incredible value made possible from WWNRT, QEP and Jonah Energy. It will last at least 100 years longer than a treated wood fence.”
The four miles of fence took two years to complete as it is located in very rocky terrain; hundreds of large boulders had to be moved to realign the fence to property boundaries prior to construction. Work was also limited due to burn bans and big game winter range closures. The fence was constructed by Moucha Fencing Inc.
The Pinedale habitat and access crew is now collecting additional pipe for an enclosure to protect vegetation on the Soda Lake and also replace Soda Lake WHMA boundary fences with the long-lasting wildlife friendly fence.