A safe place for antelope to roam

MEDICINE HAT — Roaming their home on the range has gotten much easier for southeast Alberta’s pronghorn antelopes.

MEDICINE HAT — Roaming their home on the range has gotten much easier for southeast Alberta’s pronghorn antelopes.

Inspired by a three-year University of Calgary study tracking pronghorn movements, the Fish and Game Association has replaced traditional barbed-wire fences with higher ones that give antelope room to slip underneath.

The pronghorn-friendly fences also have a smooth bottom wire to prevent the animals from getting snagged.

Two or more barbed top strands do the work of keeping livestock at bay.

Antelope are migratory animals, but they can’t jump fences.

The animals lose swatches of hair attempting to crawl under barbed-wire fences, exposing them to frostbite in winter.

“This is something we think is making a difference,” says project manager Kevin Wilson. “As simple as it is — you’re taking off a wire, you’re putting on a wire — but there’s a lot of logistics involved in making that happen.”

With funding from the Alberta Conservation Association, the Ministers’ Special License and EnCana, volunteers first replaced 37 km of fence along the north boundary of Canadian Forces Base Suffield.

That project was so successful that they kept going, concentrating on key antelope migration corridors like the South Saskatchewan River north of Medicine Hat and the Antelope Creek Ranch area just west of Brooks.

So far, 80 km of fence have been replaced.

Wilson says he has installed wildlife cameras on some of the fences and they have captured images of not just pronghorn, but mule deer and white-tailed deer as well.

“It’s just phenomenal — it’s amazing to me how many of these ungulate species are actually going under the fence,” he says.

CFB Suffield is also going to replace all 153 km of its boundary fence with a wildlife-friendly variety.