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Ranchers Use NRCS Farm Bill Funding for Wildlife-friendly Cattle Fences

Ranchers Use NRCS Farm Bill Funding for Wildlife-friendly Cattle Fences
Natural Resources Conservation Service assists in building wildlife-friendly fences that allow pronghorn, elk and deer to move freely while cattle stay inside

Ranchers are using help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to construct wildlife-friendly cattle fences so not to disrupt the travel patterns of native pronghorn, deer, elk and other wild animals.

"We found they would go a certain path, and we didn't want to jeopardize that," said rancher John Nunn, whose land is near a route where pronghorn migrate. Nunn's ranch previously used woven fences that carried entanglement risks for wildlife.

Ryan Murray, NRCS rangeland management specialist, inspects a wildlife-friendly fence installed on John Nunn’s ranch in Albany County, Wyoming. (USDA photo)

With assistance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service and funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, one of the conservation programs of the 2014 Farm Bill, Nunn and other ranchers have replaced existing fence with safer options.

Related: New Farm Bill Streamlines Conservation Programs

The safer fences, USDA said in a recent blog, allow pronghorn antelope and other big game to pass through the fence without the risk of getting tangled in the wires, and still keep cattle inside. The fence wire spacing allows pronghorn to crawl under the fence, while the lighter-on-their-feet deer and elk can easily jump over the fence.

Ultimately, 29,000 feet of woven and five-strand barbed wire fence was replaced with wildlife-friendly fence on Nunn's land. "I wanted to antelope to roam at will," Nunn said. "Now, instead of bunching up in one corner, they have the freedom to access more routes."

Related: NRCS Land Use Update Shows More Cropland, Less Erosion

In addition to the migration route improvement, the USDA says the two fence-replacement projects benefit overall rangeland health, by allowing animals to more readily find forage during winter months, and reducing browsing pressure on forbs and shrubs.

Source: USDA/ Ruben Vasquez, District Conservationist, NRCS Wyoming

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