Yesterday, while out bird hunting and climbing over another barbed wire fence, in the middle of nowhere, I wondered just how many hundreds of miles of fences are strung across the West. While carefully climbing over, crawling under, and through these fences, I’ve snagged jackets, hats, and gloves on these nuisances. I’ve tripped on old, rusted, camouflaged-in-the-brush, downed ones. Barbed wire has poked my skinny calves and shins through my thick pant legs, leaving me to wonder if my tetanus shot is up-to-date. And my dog has suffered deep lacerations on his tender chest, back, and legs from these danged things.
Invented in the 1870s, I know that these fences have their purpose. They changed the West by keeping livestock out of the fields so farmers could grow crops for us to eat, and the railroad needed these fences to keep the cattle off the tracks.
Government agencies and private land owners are slowly replacing old barbed wire fences with wildlife-friendly fences that allow large animals to migrate while continuing to contain livestock. The pronghorn can’t jump over fences, so these new style fences will benefit them the most. All the old fences won’t be replaced in my lifetime but at least it’s nice to know someone is working on it.