Updated Policy Strengthens Protections For Big Game Migration Routes

Jan 29, 2016

Recently, new GPS technology has allowed wildlife biologists to learn much more about migration routes for big game like mule deer and pronghorn. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Smith says they aren’t just roads where animals move along quickly. Instead, they’re habitats where animals spend a lot of time each year.

That’s why, last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission decided it was time to adopt updated policies to protect those routes.

Smith says the new strategy will better protect so-called “stop over areas” where animals tend to feed for days, as well as bottlenecks where the route grows narrow.

It is a very nimble strategy in that we are committed to using the best available science.

“We feel like it’s a very proactive strategy because we are looking on a case-by-case basis for risks that may impede migration,” he says. “But it’s also a very nimble strategy in that we’re committed to using the best available science.”

He says the new policy doesn’t prescribe how far development must be from these areas.

“We’re not saying if it’s X, then it has to be Y. All we’re saying is we’re agreeing we’re going to do these risk assessments at the local level. And then collaboratively, we’re going to work with interested stakeholders to figure out the best way to address those risks.”

Smith says, many stakeholders including hunters, wildlife advocacy groups and energy companies participated in putting together the updated policy. So far, he says, he’s had a lot of positive feedback.