By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative reporter on January 7, 2022.
Since its inception in 2009, the Pronghorn Corridor Enhancement Project – an effort to ease the passage of fences for American antelope – has grown in popularity, so much so that there is a waiting list for the year. 2022.
“This is a project initiated by the Alberta Fish and Game Association, of which the Alberta Conservation Association has been a partner from the start,” Paul Jones, senior biologist with the Alberta Conservation Association, told the News.
âAntelopes, even though they have the physical ability to jump fences like deer, would tend to crawl under the lower wire (metal fences),â Jones said. âWhen it is too low, the fences become barriers to their movement and often, when they are barbed, they scratch their backs and pull out their hair. (As a result, American antelopes can) have frostbite on their backs and necks.
âThe goal of the project is to work with landowners to raise the bottom wire (of the fences) to 46cm and, when barbed, replace it with double strand wire.
When the wire is lifted and no longer beards, the antelope can pass easily and safely, while ranch animals, such as cattle and horses, are still contained.
âThis will result in a larger antelope survival vessel,â Jones said.
While Jones says Alberta’s antelope numbers remain relatively stable, some subspecies residing in other geographic locations are considered threatened or endangered.
âThe American antelope is endemic to North America. They evolved in the plains of North America. They are genetically the closest relatives, it’s the African giraffe – which is pretty cool. They are the second fastest land mammal behind cheetahs. They can reach speeds of up to 100 km per hour when they run, âJones said.
The project not only helps protect the existing American antelope population in Alberta, but it is also free to landowners.
âAFGA raises money to buy all the equipment and then we do a weekend fencing project where (AFGA and ACA staff and volunteers) hook up the wire for the landowner. So really, it’s a win-win situation for sports people, conservation groups and landowners, âJones said.
TJ Schwanky, Wildlife Project Facilitator with the Alberta Fish and Game Association, is grateful to everyone who donates their time to the project.
âThis project is run by volunteers and they are at the heart of the project,â he told The News.
Jones is grateful to the volunteers and landowners who work together to make the Pronghorn Corridor Improvement Project possible.
âSince the project began in 2009, we have installed over 560 km of fencing in the prairies of southern Alberta – just a little north of CFB Suffield, towards the Montana border,â said Jones.
Information about the project has spread widely through word of mouth, he said, however landowners who have not yet participated but are interested are encouraged to contact AFGA or the ACA for more information or to register on the waiting list.