By Tim Kalinowski on January 12, 2018.
For the past seven years the Alberta Fish and Game Association, the Alberta Conservation Association and the provincial government have been working in partnership to make migration easier and safer for pronghorns.
The Antelope Corridor Enhancement program provides funds and volunteers to work with local ranchers to unbarb and reset the bottom wires of fences to allow Pronghorns an easier passage through.
“The big problem with Pronghorns is they don’t typically jump fences, they crawl underneath,” explains AFGA southern Alberta program facilitator T.J. Schwanky. “There are two things that come into play there: First of all, the wire has to be high enough for them to crawl underneath. And even if it is, if there is barbed wire it can cause a lot of damage to skin on their backs, and hair loss, which can cause problems in the winter, or lead to infections.”
The initiative has replaced about 140 miles of bottom wires to date and helped raise awareness of the issue among landowners.
“The landowners have been very gracious,” says Schwanky. “And we see others being inspired on their own to do something to help. Most of the new fences being constructed down here now are made to wildlife-friendly standards, including the smooth wire on the bottom. Already most of these ranchers are just so wildlife friendly, and wanting to do what they can, it was just a matter of showing them how well this works.”
Schwanky gives credit to his dedicated volunteers who come out year after year to do the difficult labour involved.
“This only happens because of our volunteers,” he says. “They dedicate their time, fuel to get here and the cost of their camping or hotels to do this. They are just doing this because they feel it is important in their hearts.”
The pay-off for everybody involved, and for every citizen of southern Alberta, is the continued enjoyment of seeing Pronghorns thriving on the prairies, says Schwanky.
“They are absolutely an iconic species of the southern prairie grasslands, and those grasslands are disappearing at a pretty rapid rate,” he says. “I think conservation of these kinds of iconic species is incredibly important. Pronghorns are totally unique.”
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