CASPER, Wyo. — Early snow this winter season has led big game animals in southeast Wyoming to move to winter ranges.
“[R]elatively mild conditions in recent weeks have kept most areas of winter range open and made forage available elk, deer and pronghorn,” the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said on Wednesday, Jan. 22. “However, many big game animals have been lost to vehicle collisions while trying to access these winter ranges.”
“In the Saratoga district, a herd of more than 500 elk has been consistently spotted about 13 miles north of Saratoga since late October. These elk, along with other big game animals, have been spending a substantial amount of time along roadways on their way to winter ranges, resulting in several mortalities along highways 130 and 487.”
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Heavy snow led the elk to move out of the mountains early. Game and Fish say that many of them have been on private lands which led to lower hunter harvesting rates in both Platte County and eastern Albany County.
With Hunt Areas 6 and 7 “both well over their population objective,” Game and Fish say that it may be difficult to reach wildlife management goals in those area.
Other areas have seen collisions as well.
“Numerous pronghorn were also lost to vehicle collisions along Interstate 80 and Highway 30 as they attempted to take refuge near the Platte River and in Bates Hole,” Game and Fish says. “Several pronghorn crossed the North Platte River to access winter ranges in the South Ferris herd unit.”
“In the eastern part of the region, snow moved pronghorn from the Laramie plains to the Wheatland flats where they have been milling around ever since. Wildlife biologists expect an increase in winter mortality for pronghorn in this area.”