Green River Star -

Winter weather will impact wildlife


There’s no doubt the recent bitter cold winter conditions are impacting people and wildlife in southwest Wyoming, but there is still a bright side to the daunting winter weather conditions, thanks to some volunteers and the good folks at Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Cokeville Game Warden Neil Hymas has responded to multiple calls in which 23 antelope, over 20 mule deer and 40 elk were hit and killed by trains near Sage Junction, as these animals move south and west. Hymas located a hole in the “deer fence” and volunteers with the Southwest Muley Fanatics Chapter stepped up, put on the winter gear, and mended that fence.

“Since the last week of December there has been a lot of big game movement in the Nugget Canyon and Sage Junction areas close to US Highway 30,” Hymas said. “Unfortunately, many have been hit and killed when they find a way around the tall ‘deer fence.’

The deer were moving back through the fence from the railroad tracks and getting back onto the highway. We needed that hole fixed immediately and I really appreciated the help from the Muley Fanatic folks.”

“Hundreds of elk have been wintering in the area and have been using the underpasses to feed along the railroad tracks and move south across the highway to seek available forage,” Hymas said.” With this extreme amount of elk in the area, the fence has prevented nearly all elk-vehicle collisions in the fenced area. So it’s a good time to appreciate the “deer fence” in Nugget Canyon. While most folks recognize that the fence reduces deer-vehicle collisions in the heavy deer migration corridor, drivers have benefited from reducing the odds of hitting an elk on the highway recently. A sincere thank you is also due to the Wyoming Department of Transportation for the construction of the fence and the continual effort they put forth to maintain the fence and for their assistance with getting carcasses off the highway.”

“While it is still early in the winter, we are monitoring big game movements and mortality, as the snow, ice and bitter cold temperatures continue to impact area wildlife,” Green River Wildlife Management Coordinator Mark Zornes said. “People are reminded that wildlife of all species are particularly vulnerable during periods of extreme cold and heavy snow loads. Extended periods of significantly sub-zero temperatures have occurred in our region and snowfall amounts exceed 165 percent of normal across the region. Brief warming periods have resulted in some snow crusting, which can limit a hoofed animal’s ability to paw for forage. Please give our wildlife a break by keeping your distance where possible and remember that moving animals unnecessarily results in burning fat stores needed for survival. We are early in this winter and still have months to go. By limiting disturbance, wildlife has the best chance to make it through this difficult time, despite the cold and snow.”

“Since the first of the year the Green River region has been hit by several snowstorms and extreme cold,” according to Green River Region Wildlife Supervisor Todd Graham. “Continuous cold temperatures, reaching as low as -44 degrees, are beginning to take a toll on wildlife. Antelope, mule deer, elk and moose have been moving in an attempt to find forage and escape deep snow. Antelope are trying to migrate south across Interstate 80 west of Green River.  On Jan. 16, close to 30 antelope were run over by a semi on I-80 west of Green River under foggy conditions. Elk are crossing highway 189 into the Carter Lease south of Kemmerer and we have had elk hit on that highway as well. Mule Deer are showing signs of weakening and some fawns are beginning to die in the western half of the region. The last time this area experienced winter conditions close to this was during the 2010-11 winter. Some locations in the region have not seen conditions this bad for at least 20 years.  There is little doubt that this winter will adversely affect wildlife in the region.”


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