A herd of antelope estimated at more than 2500 were pushed further south than their normal winter grounds this year, by the harsh winter in Montana. The antelope trekked across the frozen Missouri River to get here, and now are stuck. Antelope usually migrate 400 miles round trip every winter. They have Fort Peck Reservoir on one side, and steep cliffs surrounding them. Some antelope have attempted the mile swim across the reservoir, a few have made it but the majority turn around and swim back to shore. The shoreline is not expected to provide the antelope with enough food to survive, some are already dying off.
This winter was one of the toughest on the antelope. Northeastern Montana received a new record amount of snow, 108 inches, the previous record was 70 inches. There are several thousand dead antelope statewide, many along railways as well because the animals used that to travel on and forage for food. Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks agency will do their population estimate in July, which will help determine how badly the antelope have been affected. Due to the high loss Montana will be issuing less antelope tags for their hunting season this year, and each tag is good for only one antelope.
Biologist Kelvin Johnson of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said managing the antelope and their habitat requires a delicate balance. "You want to reach out and help every single one of them, but we can't -- and that's heart wrenching. The other part though is realizing this is wildlife, this is Mother Nature, and they in fact have been bred, they've evolved, to deal with these types of things," he said. From Reuters.com .