We all know that pronghorns don’t much like to jump fences; often they will run along the highway right of way, not crossing the fence when they should, and sometimes this leads to pronghorn mortality.

If you are a rancher and you want to get federal money from the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) to do range improvements, you have to agree to build wildlife-friendly fence.  Four wires: lowest wire is smooth and 18 inches high, top wire is barbed and 42 inches high.  These designs let antelope and some other critters go under and deer go over without damage to critters or fence.

This works pretty well.  Some ranchers have gotten used to the design; a calf might stray under but the mother cow will not, and the calf will come back to mother, and all is well.

But this is not the way fences are built along highways.  Most are woven “sheep-tight” wire topped with a strand or three of barbed wire.  Pronghorns cannot go under or through these fences.  Consequently, sometimes we see stories about 15 of them killed in one big collision near Pinedale, or problems with migration in the Red Desert.


This is a two-question poll.

First question: Should fences along highways be built to NRCS standards, or is that so impractical for agriculture that it would be a bad idea?

Lead to second question.  We have pronghorns all over in our subdivision in southwest Gillette.  I have frequently seen bunches of them jump wire fences.  Some of my friends who live elsewhere make jokes about how we must have trained them specially, because “everyone knows that pronghorns don’t jump fences”.

Second question: Have you seen pronghorns routinely jump over wire fences?

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  1. Evidently, the NRCS and the Wyoming Game & Fish have different standards for fences. We built some new fences on our ranch and the Game & Fish said the bottom wire should be at least 14 inches above the ground and be smooth wire. We built our fences with the smooth bottom wire 16 inches above the ground and antelope negotiate these fences quite well. Only rarely do we have calves crawl under the fence.

    We have hundreds of antelope on our ranch and I have seen an antelope jump a fence only once and that one jumped a fence that was below him as he raced along a road.

  2. Amazing that this question should be asked. I am from Montana and worked in NW Wyoming 9 years until last Oct. My wife and home are still in Bozeman and I am currently applying for work back in MT or WY. Anyway, last weekend I was driving from John Day, OR to Prineville, OR to attend the state meeting of Backcountry Horsemen of Oregon. There is some pronghorns that I’ve seen along the Waterman bench section of Hwy 26. Saturday morning I watched as one of a small herd of antelope jumped a 5 strand bobwire fence…just like a muley would. I was so amazed and decided I would report it to the Forest biologist when I got back. However, this article seems to indicate that it does indeed happen.

  3. I have seen three pronghorn carcasses draped over Wyoming fences. I have seen two mule deer fawn hung up in a fence near my house (my nephew freed them). I have not seen antelope jump a fence, although the mulies around here do so routinely. My late father used to carry wire cutters in his truck, & he cut various animals free of fences. He once freed an antelope that was so tangled my father actually had to lift the critter to unwind him. My father’s opinion was that abandoned fences were the worst hazard for animals, although he didn’t seem to regret cutting into other people’s perfectly taut, well-maintained fences, should the need (in his opinion) arise.

  4. Comment:
    I personally have never witnessed a pronghorn jump a fence, nor have I heard first hand accounts until reading this write up. With that being said, I would need to see proof of the pouncing pronghorn in order to not support modified fencing throughout the state. Lastly, I would have not expected a subdivision in Gillette to be the evolutionary SS Beagle of Wyoming pronghorns,….but I guess the new junior college mascot name has motivated the ungulate to do extrodinary things.

  5. Those Prairie Goats either try to run through a fence or go under it. The only time I have seen an antelope go over a fence is when it was going fast enough to hit the fence and flip over it. The passenger of the SS Beagle would have decided that they are evolved from liberal politicians. They have the same meathod of attacking an obstacle.