Removal of old and unneeded wire fences has many benefits to both the public and wildlife, according to Missoula Ranger District recreation specialist Al Hilshey.
“This improves habitat and eliminates a safety hazard for wildlife,” Hilshey said. “It’s not unusual for injury and mortality of wildlife to result from entanglement or entrapment. Also, wildlife movement can be hindered and off-spring and adults can become separated.”
Hilshey said old, unmaintained fences can also pose a hazard to recreationists like skiers or hikers, are obstacles for employees doing work such as weed spraying, and in general take away from the aesthetics of the natural landscape of public lands.
The Pattee Canyon fences were likely remnant from an old homestead or a now closed grazing permit.
“In the case of Pattee Canyon, you could actually see multiple wildlife trails that crossed through the fence line and, with lots of hair remaining on the barbs; it was evident that wildlife were being snagged crossing the fences,” Hilshey said. “This was a great contribution to our local public lands by the volunteers of Tangle Free. Wildlife in this area can now move freely without the risk of entanglement.”
Hilshey said many of the local recreation areas of the Lolo National Forest surrounding Missoula were at one time fenced and grazed. He said miles of fence that were part of old grazing allotments and homesteads have been removed in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, Blue Mountain, Lolo Creek, and Rock Creek areas of the Lolo National Forest in partnership with local organizations like Tangle Free.
Since Tangle Free formed in early 2010, their volunteers have removed over 46,000 feet of problem barbed-wire on public land, according to the group’s website (http://tanglefreemontana.blogspot.com/).