Saturday, January 21, 2012

Rangeland rescue

We finally got some snow overnight, covering our rangeland in a blanket of white. Our pregnant ewes love it, with the snow unable to penetrate their dense wool, but the moisture softening the vegetation.

After checking the sheep this morning, we watched a herd of pronghorn antelope running across the Mesa behind the house. Their's was not the usual pronghorn pace – they ran as if being chased, but we were unable to determine what was the cause for alarm. We've witnessed a few odd wildlife behaviors this week, so we think there may be some major predator action occurring, but we're not yet sure what's responsible.

While we were watching one pronghorn herd, two other herds came from different directions, and we thought they were going to converge. Instead, as we watched from our kitchen window, most of one herd made it under a crossing of our back fence. Suddenly, one mature buck became stuck in the fence, struggling and thrashing. We watched him go down, and within seconds, several eagles and ravens approached, landing nearby to watch.

I simply didn't have the heart to accompany Jim on the rescue, thinking that he was going to find a tragedy. When Jim arrived at the scene in the truck, he found the buck on his back, with both a front leg and a back leg stuck in the wires. Jim had to cut three wires of the fence to free the buck, but fortunately the wires hadn't even broke through his skin yet.

Jim freed the buck and he was up and running! He raced around the pickup and then launched himself through the air and OVER the top of the five-wire fence, running back to the Mesa to join his herd. (Click on the photo to enlarge, and you can see the buck clearing the top of the fence.)

We don't have just a few hundred pronghorn that go through our place in the winter – we have thousands of them. We are sheep producers, so we need to have fences that will hold sheep, but we try not to hinder wildlife migrations, so our fences are generally pretty wildlife friendly. Regardless, sometimes things simply go wrong. Fortunately, Jim was home today, and was able to help this buck get back to his bunch. I'm sure the eagles were not rejoicing over Jim's good deed.

As for Jim? He took a break for a celebratory beer, but now he's headed back to fix the fence he just cut.


Anonymous said...

It's been shocking for this mid-westerner to learn that pronghorns are so vulnerable to so many hazards in winter, like trains, and fences. J Carlson last winter wrote of horrendous numbers killed by trains. We rode the Empire Builder in April, and heard more stories. Thanks Cat for your great western lessons.

Cowgirl Red said...

Good man! Terah

Just Another Savage! said...

Man those pics are just beautiful!! I'm all melancholy now, pining away for the west. Thanks

Cat Urbigkit said...

Thanks all! We're happy to have the snow, and I'm thankful every day for the beautiful corner of the earth I'm lucky enough to inhabit.

Reid Farmer said...

Awesome pix, Cat!