Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pronghorn Winter

As I posted earlier, this winter is going to be tough on the animals that try to survive the winter in the northern Great Plains. We are now only 10 inches shy of breaking the record for the greatest amount of snow during a winter and well above average (the word "normal" doesn't apply to any measures of Great Plains weather).
Earlier this week I was able to get out and watch a rather large herd of Pronghorn that has probably made their way from summer ranges in the border region between Montana and Saskatchewan.

Much of the herd was gathered in small groups resting on the slopes of the south facing hills that span the northern edge of the Milk River valley.

Others had moved out into the valley itself and were foraging in the deep snow.

They were working hard to find any forage in the snow, pawing and digging to get down to the grass.

They appeared to have hit all the easy patches and were working their way to the sage and grass remaining in the areas with deeper snow.

Animals were moving back and forth in small groups looking for additional patches of forage.

This is about as far south as this herd can get without crossing some rather large barriers. In the photo above behind the animals you can see a barb wire fence (which can be rather tough barriers for pronghorn movement), and probably more detrimental, the triple barrier of a major highway (US 2), a major railway, and the Milk River itself. Throughout much of the HiLine portion of Montana (along Highway 2) these features are very close to each other and do a pretty good job of limiting the ability of these animals to move further south. Only in one section do these features spread out enough that each of the barriers becomes surmountable and animals move south much more freely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are wonderful photos - with the white backdrop focussing attention on the animals. Excellent. -- Marilyn