Scientists say pronghorn have been on the Wyoming landscape for at least 20,000 years. But now a Cody area herd is threatened by a modern convenience: Highway 120 between Cody and Meeteetse.
The pronghorn are being hit and killed by cars and trucks driving down that highway. Several agencies are planning a study, to see how to help the animals.
The Carter Mountain herd of Pronghorn each spring starts a 40 mile migration from the Big Horn Basin East of Cody to their summer home on Carter Mountain, west of Cody.
Although they’re often called pronghorn antelope, biologists say they aren’t really antelope, but a creature in a family of their own, actually related to giraffes! This species lived on Wyoming’s landscape when lions and Cheetahs did…and that is why they are…
BLM Wildlife Biologist Destin Harrell said, “The fastest animal in the western hemisphere, land mammal.”
Harrell estimates there are about 8000 animals in the Carter Mountain pronghorn herd, and while they can run very fast…
He pointed out, “They don’t jump fences very well, so they have to crawl underneath them.”
Land managers installed “goat bars” on both sides of Highway 120 south of Cod, so that the pronghorn can get to and from their summer and winter ranges. The game trail shows they use this crossing a lot.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Wildlife Management Coordinator Cory Class remarked,
“A lot of different agencies, WYDOT, BLM, Game and Fish, Forest Service got together as well as private land owners and private agencies got together and identified that stretch as one of the highest priorities for highway mortality.”
Class said a study is planned to find out where these pronghorn are actually traveling, and what obstacles they encounter, besides fast vehicles on the highway.
He explained, “We would place GPS collars on not this winter, but the following winter….about fifty is what we’re planning this stage of the game, 50 GPS collars to track these animals.”
Federal and state managers plan to possibly change fences on BLM land to help the animals crawl underneath them, put up dynamic messaging signs to warn drivers there may be pronghorn on the highway, and, “In the roadway summit, one of the solutions was some sort of a crossing structure…”
Class said pronghorn do well with overpasses. Wyoming’s Department of Transportation installed a wildlife overpass near Pinedale, and the pronghorn have been using it regularly.