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Brian Maffly

Carnage Abounds on Western Wyoming Roads

Last month’s deadly encounter between a truck and a herd of pronghorn that killed 21 of the animals in a Wyoming gas field was hardly the fluke it initially seemed. At least four other winter-time mass-casualty roadkills have occurred in southwest Wyoming since 2003, including a train incident that killed 41 pronghorn near Granger. I spoke with four field biologists about these accidents, and all speculated that the flight behavior of pronghorns played a role. For millennia, pronghorn and other ungulates have evolved to avoid predation by traveling in herds. While running from a perceived attack, the pronghorn, the continent’s fastest land animal, will sprint and juke in tight groups. “It confuses the predator when they move in unison. It makes them seem like a bigger creature,” says Therese Hartman, a Pinedale-based biologist with the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish. This behavior may have worked as a survival strategy for evading the fast feline predators pronghorn co-evolved with 2 or 3 million years ago. But in the age of automobiles it has become a prescription for mass suicide when animals’ group flights intersect roads.

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Deadly Roadkill in Wyoming Kills 21 Pronghorn

Even by Wyoming standards, the scene of a Jan. 15 wildlife-vehicle collision in a Sublette County gas field was shocking. Game warden Brian Nesvik responded to a report of a wildlife accident to find 21 dead or dying pronghorn strewn along an unfenced service road in the Jonah gas field outside Pinedale. Nesvik has concluded the collision occurred when a herd of pronghorn inexplicably stampeded into a truck, leaving a scene of carnage possibly unprecedented in the history of western highways. A Pinedale-based investigator for the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, Nesvik said he could find no clues to explain why the pronghorn dashed onto the road.

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Critics Allege Rehberg Campaigning on Taxpayers’ Dime

Congressman Denny Rehberg’s political opponents are publicly castigating Montana’s lone representative in the U.S. House for using his tax-supported franking privileges to mail what they call “blatant campaign literature” to Montana voters. Last week, Rehberg’s congressional office mass-mailed three fliers that tout the Republican congressman’s legislative work helping children, seniors and veterans, a record that his Democratic foes hotly dispute. The mailings went out just days before a franking cut-off goes into effect 90 days before elections. Rehberg is in a re-election race against Democrat Monica Lindeen, a Billings-area state representative and long-shot contender for the seat Rehberg has held since 2000. “It is legitimate for a member to keep citizens informed of what’s happening in Congress and their own activities. It conveys an advantage to incumbents that they are able to mail such communications on the taxpayers’ dime. That’s a fact of life. But what Congressman Dennis Rehberg has done is fraudulent,” Jim Farrell, executive director of Montana’s Democratic Party, said in an interview.

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Article Launches Investigation Into Heli-Fishing on Rocky Mountain Front

One of the more important lessons I learned during my college years in Oregon was never engage in two illegal activities at the same time (i.e., rolling joints in a speeding vehicle). A no-brainer corollary to this rule apparently must have escaped Jorge Simental, an ER physician who recently launched a supplemental career as a flyfishing guide: If you are doing something that might be illegal, don't invite the media to publicize it.

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