Alberta Newspaper Group
Thanks to very generous grants from the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA), Minister’s Special Licence programme, Northern Alberta Chapter Safari Club International, and the hard work of some very dedicated Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA) volunteers, pronghorn, or as they are commonly known, antelope, will have an easier time moving across the prairie landscape for years to come. Barbed-wire fences can be significant barriers to pronghorn movement, especially when the bottom wire is set too low for the animals to crawl under it.
Documented cases of pronghorn jumping fences are rare in Alberta and improperly constructed fences can cause them to go miles out of their way during annual migrations, and they can also act as predator traps. In an attempt to identify the most critical barriers to pronghorn movement, the ACA has been tracking their migration and identifying fence lines that are not easily traversed by pronghorn.
This is where the AFGA comes in. In 2009, in an ambitious project, AFGA volunteers along with Department of National Defence employees, removed 50 kilometres of barbed wire from the bottom of fences surrounding the Suffield Base and replaced it with smooth, two-strand wire set at 18 inches. This allows the pronghorn to easily crawl under the bottom wire without suffering damage from barbs. As this project was such an overwhelming success, the Department of National Defence modified all of the fencing on the base to pronghorn-friendly standards.
In 2010, the Pronghorn Corridor Enhancement Project was expanded to include private and leased land in prime pronghorn range in southern Alberta. Working with landowners identified by the ACA, AFGA volunteers have installed nearly 600 kilometres of smooth wire and manipulated another nearly 1,800 kilometres of barbed wire to wildlife-friendly standards. An additional 50 kilometres of page wire and over 150 kilometres of barbed wire have been permanently removed from the landscape. The project to date has involved nearly 1,800-man days of volunteer labour and over 750,000 hunter and angler dollars. Additionally, smooth wire has been supplied to area landowners that are constructing new fences or upgrading existing fence lines to wildlife-friendly standards.
This project is a great example of how private landowners and hunters can work together to secure the future for one of Alberta’s keystone species. Pronghorn are at the northern extent of their range in Alberta and are highly migratory and must often move great distances to avoid severe weather. By removing barriers to this migration, the future of pronghorn in Alberta is bright. The winter of 2010-11 reminded us just how vulnerable pronghorn can be, but populations are rebounding and everything we can do to help them move across the landscape will only serve to hasten this recovery.
Three fencing events are planned for 2022, near Etzikom (July 23-24), Seven Persons (August 20-21) and Manyberries (September 10-11).