by Andrew Graham as published on WyoFile.com
As the snowpack recedes in Wyoming, it reveals the dead.
Wildlife can die from a number of causes in winter, from starvation to cold. This photograph of what appears to be an elk calf carcass in the North Platte River Valley captured a man-made mortal threat to wildlife — entanglement in a wire fence meant to control cattle.
Data on how many wild ungulates die when attempting to cross Wyoming fences is difficult to find. A 2006 study from the University of Utah looked at wildlife mortality along 600 miles of fence in Utah and Colorado. Researchers estimated one ungulate gets caught each year for every 2.5 miles of fence.
Mortality rates are increased to one ungulate death for every 1.2 miles of fence by the indirect deaths of fawns found dead next to fences but not entangled. The dead young were likely separated from their mothers when they could not cross the fence, according to researchers.
The majority of ungulates become tangled in the top wires while trying to jump the fence. That may be what happened to this badly tangled animal, but its legs are wrapped into both the top and bottom strands of wire.
A 2015 guide from the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation offers advice to ranchers who want to build more wildlife-friendly fences.