Drop-Fences Benefit Sage Grouse
Fence-strikes are killing Greater Sage-Grouse along “high-risk” fences at alarming rates. Learn how we’re collaborating to lower seven miles of fence annually to help conserve Wyoming’s most iconic game bird.
Why build drop fences in Sublette, County?
Collisions with fences while in flight cause high rates of Sage-Grouse mortality throughout the West, which is a major problem for a species considered “near-threatened” and widely in decline.
Mortalities are exacerbated along “high-risk” fences located near spots where Grouse congregate during winter or to breed.
While deterrents such as reflective markers have been shown to reduce strike-rates at some localities, partner data from Sublette County indicates the effects of markers can be marginal at best; high-risk fences continue to kill birds at an alarming rate even while marked.
Since October 2017, JHWF in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)-Pinedale Office, has used Jonah Interagency Office (JIO) funding to modify and seasonally lower seven miles of fence where these collisions are known to occur.
What Makes a High-Risk Fence?
Not all fences are death traps for Sage-Grouse.
Data gathered over many years by partner organizations show that certain fences near leks (breeding sites) and geophagy sites (wintering areas) can be disproportionately lethal to these birds.
The vast majority of Sage-Grouse fence-strikes occur on a relatively small subset of fences, but these fences account for a lot of dead birds.
Surveys of high-risk fences have documented as many as 10 Sage-Grouse carcasses per mile.
It is not uncommon to find evidence of dozens of fence strikes along longer fence sections at certain times of year.
The fences we lower are all fences where high-levels of collisions have been recorded.
Prior to lowering wires, vast stretches of fence are first converted to “drop fences” using metal post clips and removable pins to hold the barbed-wires in places.
Where we work
The fences lowered seasonally in Sublette County are shown in red.
These fences are then raised again when grazing occurs.
We work in coordination with the BLM, ranchers, volunteers, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers to accomplish this raising and lowering process.
If you’d like to help drop fences we’re always interested in bringing on extra hands.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Benefits to Big Game
Greater Sage-Grouse aren’t the only species which benefits from fences being lowered.
Elk, mule deer and pronghorn all occur in the areas where fences are dropped and take advantage of our work!
Lowered wires reduce the chance of an animal being entangled or injured in a fence, making movement and migration across the landscape easier for these and other species.
A Species in Decline
Wyoming holds nearly 40% of the World’s Greater Sage-Grouse population.
However, Sage-Grouse numbers are in decline across the West and lek attendance in Wyoming is believed to be at its lowest rate since the late 90’s.
In addition to fence strikes, drought and habitat loss are believed to be playing large roles in the decline of this iconic, native species of North American game bird.