We studied the characteristics of pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), and elk (Cervus elaphus) mortalities associated with wire fences along roads in Colorado and Utah, USA, from June 2004 to June 2005. We estimated an average annual mortality occurrence of 0.25 mortalities/km for the wire fences studied (0.08 mule deer mortalities/km, 0.11 pronghorn mortalities/km, and 0.06 elk mortalities/km) or 0.5 mortalities/km of road. The highest wire fence–mortality rates in our study area occurred during August, which coincided with weaning of fawns. Mule deer and pronghorn jumped fences in >81% of observed crossings. Mortalities were largely caused by animals getting caught between the top 2 wires. Mule deer experienced higher fence-mortality rates than elk or pronghorn because they crossed fences more frequently (P < 0.001) and spent more time in road right-of-ways (P < 0.001) than the other species. Juveniles were 8 times more likely to die in fences than adults. Woven-wire fences topped with a single strand of barbed wire were more lethal to ungulates than woven wire with 2 strands of barbed wire above it or 4-strand barbed-wire fences (P < 0.01). There was a direct relationship between the frequency of fence mortalities and ungulate abundance (r2 = 0.83). Traffic volumes were inversely related to fence-mortality frequencies (r2 = 0.50) and ungulate densities along the right-of-way (r2 = 0.50).
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Vol. 34 • No. 5