Tough winter has elk, deer and pronghorn in desperate search of food

WYOMING – Winter dragging on with deep snows still not melting out. It’s causing hardship for wildlife, especially in areas of Wyoming where deer and elk migrate to specifically to get away from snow.

Cokeville Game Warden Neil Hymas couldn’t believe what he was seeing on US Hwy 30 on March 10, near Sage Junction.

“I was amazed at the numbers of elk, deer, and pronghorn antelope feeding together closely to the highway,” Hymas said. “Some of the photos also remind me how many animals would be on the highway without the fence being there. Deer are moving and seeking forage so hard now that we are getting quite a few deer inside the Nugget Canyon highway on snowed-in cattle guards, roads, and any holes they can find. We will be keeping an eye out for that and may have to move some of them out of those areas, as it doesn’t look like a heat wave and summer soon.”

Green River

Since the first of the year, the Green River region has been battered by one storm after another.

Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts photographed this poor moose trying to rest on snow-free ground, while a railroad worker moves it along. (Nick Roberts, WGFD)

“While it is still winter, we are monitoring big game movements and mortality, as the snow, ice and bitter cold temperatures continue to impact area wildlife,” Green River Wildlife Management Coordinator Mark Zornes said. “People are reminded that wildlife of all species are particularly vulnerable during periods of extreme cold and heavy snow loads. Extended periods of significantly sub-zero temperatures with heavy snowfall amounts have occurred in portions of our region. Brief warming periods have resulted in some snow crusting, which can limit a hoofed animal’s ability to paw for forage.”

Zornes implores people to give wildlife a break by keeping a respectful distance where possible and remember that moving animals unnecessarily results in burning fat stores needed for survival.

“We are, hopefully, nearing the latter part of this winter, but nobody can predict when that will arrive. By limiting disturbance, wildlife has the best chance to make it through this difficult time, despite the cold and snow,” Zornes added.

Green River Region Wildlife Supervisor Todd Graham says his team is keeping a close eye on wildlife, noticing already that mule deer and pronghorn are beginning to succumb to the conditions.

“Since the first of the year the Green River region has been hit by several snowstorms and extreme cold. Continuous cold temperatures and heavy snowfall has already taken a toll on wildlife, especially in the Evanston and Bridger Valley areas,” Graham said. “Antelope, mule deer, elk and moose have been moving in an attempt to find forage and escape deep snow. Some pronghorn antelope were killed on railroad tracks. Mule deer and antelope are showing signs of weakening and some fawns have already died in the western half of the region. Our wildlife personnel are keeping an eye on wildlife and remind everyone to give wildlife plenty of space at this crucial time in their quest for survival.”

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