The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) today announced a $20,000 grant from Orvis Company, Inc. that will help fund the WCS North America Program's continued conservation efforts along the "Path of the Pronghorn."
For more than a decade, WCS has studied the approximate 93-mile (150 km) migration of pronghorn along the path between wintering grounds in the Upper Green River Basin and summering grounds in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). This led to collaboration with GTNP and Bridger Teton National Forest to bring about the designation of the Path of the Pronghorn as the first and only federally designated migration corridor in the United States.
As part of their research, WCS scientists used GPS tracking collars to collect information over the course of five years on the location and timing of pronghorn movements and impediments to migration such as fences, roadways, pipelines, and other energy development infrastructure.
The grant will be used to continue WCS efforts to understand the effectiveness of two overpass structures and six underpass structures recently constructed to enhance habitat connectivity for pronghorn along the designated migration corridor. This information will be used to inform similar efforts for migrating pronghorn and other species in other regions of the US.
WCS Conservation Scientist Jon Beckmann said, "Funding like this is critical to Path of the Pronghorn research and to turning that research into action. Continued conservation efforts coupled with partnerships among government officials, land and transportation planners, and others will ensure that the Grand Teton National Park's ecosystem remains ecologically intact and that this 6,000 year-old migration--the longest overland migration in the contiguous United States-- remains a part of our national heritage."
Last fall, the newly constructed overpasses provided safe passage for thousands of migrating pronghorn over U.S. Highway 191 in Trapper's Point, Wyoming, and surrounding areas. The event marked the beginning of a new era of reduced risk of wildlife/vehicular collisions in the area.
The locations of the structures were informed by data collected by WCS, National Park Service, Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department that identified the pronghorn's preferred migration routes and highway crossing points. Using this information, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) was able to locate and build two overpass and six underpass crossing structures as part of an effort to protect motorists and provide safe passage for migrating pronghorn and other wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
"How and where we choose to live and develop lands affects wildlife, and we are responsible for minimizing adverse impacts wherever possible," said David Perkins, Vice Chairman for the Orvis Company. "The Path of the Pronghorn is an excellent example of where we can make a real difference. Seeing migrating pronghorn make immediate use of a newly constructed highway overpass confirms the wildlife return on investment and the value in supporting such efforts. I cannot think of a better place for Orvis and you to invest your money."
WCS North America Program Director Jodi Hilty said, "We are very grateful to Orvis for their support and pleased to work with donors and partners who understand the significance of this migration and the importance of preserving it in perpetuity."
Pronghorn are North America's fastest land animals. They numbered an estimated 35 million in the early 19th century. Today, about 700,000 remain and more than half of those live in Wyoming. The animals migrate to find food, mating opportunities, suitable habitat, and other resources they need to survive.