MT train kills 270 pronghorn antelope; 800 die on roads & tracks in rough winter

A rough winter in Montana is pushing pronghorn antelope and deer onto the only clear passageways they can find–railroad tracks and highways, where they are killed and maimed by trains, trucks and cars. About 800 ungulates have died this way so far, including 270 antelope hit by one freight train, Mark Sullivan, a Fish, Wildlife & Parks program manager in northeastern Montana, told the Great Falls Tribune.

Montana is something of an antelope capital with about 217,000 antelopes. Only Wyoming has more of the species that used to cover the west. A study team, including scientists across the border in Alberta, Canada, is figuring out how to make roads, fences and canals less of an obstacle in their migrations, which can reach 500 miles. Between snow and fences, the animals find the roads and tracks the only way to go.

One train killed the 270 antelope near Vandalia, where both Amtrak and freight trains run on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks, which have been cut off at times by blowing snow. The area now expects flooding in the spring.

Blaine County deputies also shot 100 injured antelope after finding the parts of 200 dismembered antelope–enough to fill 12 dump trucks–near So many of the deer and pronghorn have been injured that deputies went out and shot 100 after finding dismembered parts of 200, enough to fill 12 dump trucks, undersheriff Pat Pyette said. In another massacre, 18 deer carcasses were scattered by a railroad near a grain elevator.

Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist Craig Miller, who studies pronghorn, says that the high snow makes it hard for pronghorn to cross under cattle fences. He’s checking that federal fences have smooth, not barbed, wire on the bottom, at least 16 inches high. He recommends ranchers do the same.

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