By Kathy Lichtendahl
Through the use of focused studies, including animal collaring, the scientific community has learned a lot about migration and behavior patterns of Wyoming ungulates over the course of the last decade. For example, we know that migration routes are learned, not innate; that mule deer have a remarkable fidelity to the journey and that stopover sites are critical to animals on the move. We also know that manmade barriers to movement can cause issues for many species.
Fences are as much a part of the modern west as is the cowboy. They are used to contain stock and to delineate property boundaries. They are so ubiquitous that we often drive by miles of wire strung between posts along highways across the state without giving a thought to what it means to wildlife trying to make its way up the slopes to greener pastures in the spring or down hills to avoid deep snows in the winter.
The Absaroka Fence Initiative (AFI) formed in the Big Horn Basin in 2020. A collaboration between several state and federal agencies, NGO’s, and private land owners, the goal of the organization is to make fencing more wildlife friendly while still satisfying the needs of ranchers to contain livestock. In 2021, AFI held field days that resulted in the removal of 8.2 miles of obsolete fence and the modification of 5.7 miles of fence to make it friendlier to wildlife.
In addition to continuing fence modification and removal, AFI is working with the Wyoming Migration Initiative under the guidance of Emily Reed to inventory fences that cross known and suspected migra-tion corridors within the Big Horn Basin. The knowledge collected will allow the organization to target specific problem areas for improvement.
A few weeks ago I was part of a training field day on a ranch north of Cody in which we practiced using the equipment and software required to accurately map the location and condition of fences throughout the region. Fences are notoriously difficult to survey from the air so the only surefire way to record their existence is by boots on the ground. We were divided into teams of three to four people; each group in possession of a GPS and a tablet preloaded with the software containing the questions that were to be an-swered. Starting at a location supplied to us by the group leader, we walked the fence line, recording data such as fence type, number of wires, existence of gates, animal tracks, carcasses, and many other facts, all noted with corresponding coordinates ac-cording to the GPS.
Field days are planned to take place regularly throughout the sum-mer months. I look forward to continuing to help gather the critical information that will allow AFI to propose and implement improvements to fencing throughout migra-tion corridors in the Big Horn Basin.
National Elk Refuge opportunities
Join the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service volunteer team at the National Elk Refuge. As team members, vol-unteers play a vital role in the maintenance, environmental education, and visitor services programs at the refuge. Volunteers will primarily staff the front desk at the Jackson Hole and Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center providing visitors with information about the refuge and providing educational programs. Volunteers directly affect the quality and success of the refuge visitor center operations; visitors’ safety, comfort, and enjoy-ment; and the public’s understanding and goals of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Limited Housing or an RV site may be availa-ble with volunteer positions. An RV pad with electrical, water, and sewer is provided in ex-change for work hours 48/couple or 32/indi-vidual per week. Laundry facilities provided on site. Wi-Fi is available at certain RV sites. All pets must be pre-approved by the Volunteer Coordinator prior to arrival. Local volunteers who do not need housing, have no minimum work hours per week.
For volunteer opportunities on the National Elk Refuge con-tact the volunteer coordinator Annie Sorrell. Email: email@example.com
Check out all our WNP volunteer opportunities! They are listed on the WNP website here. Remember when you visit the list you can filter it by region or type of project, and it’s not an exhaustive list.
If you are in the Laramie area there is a fence removal project on the morning of August 6th. Contact Common Outdoor Ground (included in the list) for more info.
By Dan Bach, Steering Committee Member
Hello Wyoming Naturalists! Towards the end of June, 2022, I went to the Duncan Ranch Hunter Management Area adminis-tered by Wyoming Game and Fish to conduct an archeological survey. While there, I took as many photographs of plants and insects as possible.
I was so impressed with the area. I don’t recall being in a place where the ponderosa pine trees had never been cut down. The area is pristine, and I would highly recommend a day visit to this part of the Laramie Range if you have never been there. There are walking, biking and eques-trian trails throughout the area.
Allow me to “cut and paste” from my report. Ignore the “dryness of the technical writing.”
The Duncan Ranch Hunting Management Area is located on the northern edge of the Laramie Moun-tains and is composed of granite gneiss (Love and Christensen 1985). Outcrops are numerous on the ridges and slopes in the area that have little potential of soil deposition. The topography ranges from gradual to rugged and the slopes are gradual to steep ranging from near flat to 20 percent. Collu-vium deposition is present along the banks of Batts Creek. According to USDA Natural Resources Con-servation Services (2022), there are two outcrop types: Cathedral-Rock outcrop complex, wooded, 6 to 75% slopes, and Rock outcrop – Cathedral com-plex, 10 to 75% slopes.
Within the project, area is located Batts Creek, which is a small stream that flows to the north for about 3 miles where it joins Hunton Creek. It con-tinues in a northeastern direction for approximately 2 miles and joins Box Elder Creek. Box Elder Creek flows for approximately 6 miles and drains into the North Platte River. Elevation of the project area ranged from 6300 ft. to 6520 feet. Vegetation in the area is composed primarily of a mature ponderosa pine forest with some juniper tree community, including a big sagebrush understory composed of paintbrush, lupines, mountain mahogany, beards tongue, and cinquefoil, and numerous short grass species (Knight 1994). The area surrounding Batts Creek is defined as a Riparian community composed of choke-cherry, willow, wild onions, serviceberry, raspberries, and aspen trees. Vegetation along the ridge areas is a more typical big sage-brush/short grass community.
Okay, so yes, that was dry reading, but it does give you a good back-ground. That said, here is the link to the folder with all of my pic-tures. While I was there I also ob-served robins (Turdus migratorius) and I could hear a wood pecker but I never saw him or her. Sorry I haven’t had time to rename the files with the name of the plants or insects. That might make for a good winter project.