Winter can be tough on big game -- especially deer and pronghorn antelope -- and one way to make it easier for them is for private landowners and public land users to leave gates open so the animals aren’t blocked by fences.
“We’re asking farmers and ranchers to leave gates open wherever possible once their livestock and harvesting equipment has been moved out for the season,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Wildlife Biologist Kelvin Johnson. “This is especially helpful for antelope, because in many areas they will soon be trying to migrate. And as we saw last winter in particular, fences, closed gates and other obstructions can keep antelope from successfully reaching their traditional wintering grounds.”
Most antelope try to avoid jumping fences. Where possible, they prefer to slide under the bottom wire of a fence to get to the other side. But when snow is deep and drifted, sliding under can become difficult and the animals can easily get trapped.
“It may seem like a small thing, but leaving gates open can make life a lot easier for animals that are trying to find areas with less snow, better cover and more reliable food sources,” Johnson said, adding that FWP is working in conjunction with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to get the word out to permittees, partners and landowners.
“Keeping gates open on public lands in the winter clearly helps wildlife,” said Phoebe J. Patterson, the BLM’s new Glasgow field manager. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the two agencies to work together with our permittees, hunters and other recreationists to help make winters easier for these animals wherever we can.”