G&F Partners with Ranch to Facilitate Big Game Migration
Wyoming Game and Fish Biologist Kerry Gold has been working closely with the Jackson Fork Ranch, modifying their fences to faciltate the movement of big game animals across their property. The Jackson Fork Ranch is a domestic bison ranch near Bondurant, WY, along the upper reaches of the Hoback River. It is also located within the migration corridor of the Sublette mule deer herd and is adjacent to the Game and Fish's McNeel elk feedground.

The fence used to contain bison on the ranch consists of 56" tall woven wire with two additional wires at about 60" and 70" above the ground. Ranch managers keep boundary gates open as often as possible to ease wildlife passage, but are restricted during spring migration when bison are distributed across the pastures, and fall migration when cattle are still present in adjacent Bridger Teton National Forest (BTNF) allotments. Mule deer, elk, pronghorn and moose are common in the area and have struggled to cross the fences in the past, sometimes resulting in damage to the fence, self-injury and even mortalities. 

In May 2019, in partnership with Rickett's Conservation Foundation, the Pinedale Anticline Project Office funded the construction and installation of drop-down welded pipe structures as part of a larger effort to make traditional livestock fences more wildlife-freindly in high priority big game ranges. Track surveys, collar data, fence damage and trail cameras were used to identify sections of fence with the most use by ungulates.

In fall 2019, 25 modification structures were installed along 5.5 miles of bison fence using old, drill stem pipe donated by Pinedale Energy Partners and Ultra Resources. The structures consist of welded pipes at 16", 30", and 42", with a removable top rail at 60". During spring and fall migrations, Jackson Fork Ranch removes the top rail to allow easier ungulate passage while containing bison and excluding nearby BTNF cattle.

Trail cameras were set up to monitor wildlife use of the modifications during the 2019 fall migration. While many elk and mule deer have quickly adjusted to the crossing structures, others are still becoming accustomed to them. Camera footage and track surveys have also helped identify additional sections of fence to modify in 2020. Future project plans include identifying more high use areas to either install modification structures or raise the bottom of the woven wire fence to 18", to better facilitate ungulate migrations.

Below is a video clip showing a pair of mule deer bucks utilizing one of the 25 new crossing structures that were constructed this past fall.
Mark Gocke, Public Information Specialist, 307-249-5811

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