Herds of desperate ungulates dying on Montana railroads, highways

Severe winter in Eastern Montana is taking huge toll on pronghorn, other ungulates-

In deep snow, antelope often seek out railroad tracks and highways so they can move.  When a train comes, and fences on both sides, hundreds can die; and they are, right now.

Herds of desperate ungulates dying on Montana railroads, highways.Written by Kim Skornogoski. Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer.

Update: Trains kill more than 800 antelope and deer on Montana tracks this winter. AP





  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    About 20 years ago in a snowy winter, a train hit and killed almost every pronghorn on the Burley district of the BLM in southern Idaho. I think it was 150 animals.

    I haven’t seen a pronghorn in the area of the Raft River Valley since then although it’s possible there are a few on the Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge.

    More recently (2004). Train Collision Kills 58 Deer. By: Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Posted on: 01/09/04

  2. Alan Gregory Avatar

    How much more evidence and deadly statistics does the United States road-building cadre need before we stop paving over America? Here in northeastern Pennsylvania, I once kept track of the roadkill bird species I encountered on my hundreds of long exercise walks. I stopped updating the diary when I got past 65 species.The last roadkill estimate of white-tailed deer I remember for Pa. was approximately 40,000 head. And, of course, nearly all suburbanites drive everywhere in their personal cars.

  3. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    The Alaska Railroad, sometimes called the moose gooser, has had a similar problem with hitting moose with an average of over 100 moose hit per year and up to 300-400 in certain deep snow winters. Most of it occurs in a limited area in the Susitna Valley and can be a major fraction of total moose mortality. I am not up on very recent efforts at avoidance but unfortunately a test in 1991 showed that reducing train speed nearly in half made no significant difference. The moose run directly away from the train down the tracks until they are over-taken.
    That train is pretty slow with normal operating speed around 50 mph. The trains I’ve ridden on in France seemed completely insane, doing 190 mph through the rural countryside on fairly regular looking tracks with nobody even wearing seat belts. I’ve heard the Chinese are working on one that will go 230 mph.

  4. Phil Avatar

    How much you want to bet that some are going to blame wolves for these deaths to? I can read it now “It’s wolves fault because they forced the herds to run across the railroada…”

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      Phil there are no wolves in the area where this incident happened. Maybe a lone wolf from Canada that no one will ever know it there.

      1. Phil Avatar

        Elk: You didn’t get the entire point of what I was trying to say. It doesn’t matter if there are wolves in that area or not, I am sure the anti-wolf hunters and others will blame the wolves for these deaths.

      2. Elk275 Avatar

        Phil, people are smarter than that. I have never heard anyone blaming wolves in Northeast Montana. The people in Northeast Montana are thinking about one thing — the Bakken Field.

        Interesting side note: Most of the antelope that have been killed are Alberta antelope not Montana antelope. Montana antelope have moved futher south. The University of Calgary has 4 doctorate students working on antelope migration between Alberta and Montana at the present time. This could be a 300 or 400 mile unknown migration.

      3. Phil Avatar

        Elk: I really do respect you, but you still don’t get it. Do you ever smile?

      4. Elk275 Avatar

        I understand what you are saying. I do smile sometimes.

      5. Jon Way Avatar

        I don’t have specific knowledge of that pronghorn herd but saying they are Alberta animals sounds a little bit like the Canadian wolf misnomer. Wouldn’t it just be a herd that uses both Alberta and MT as their overall range? Just curious….

      6. Elk275 Avatar

        There could be two other ways to look at it. Those antelope have dual citizenship so they can freely cross the border anytime, anywhere or they are Albertan snowbirds antelope going south in the winter. It is like the chicken or egg which came first.

      7. Jon Way Avatar

        My guess was that it was the egg that came first. I don’t believe in spontaneous generation, meaning that it was probably a reptile like bird that eventually evolved into the chicken, thru egg-laying!

  5. Kayla Avatar

    Now I wish the Federal Agencies would make plans for the wildlife for when those times come when we are hit with old fashioned good snowy winters.

  6. mikarooni Avatar

    This must be the fault of those danged wolves. The wolves are obviously chasing these animals onto the train tracks and highways!

    1. anna Avatar

      I was think thinking the same thing,, someone is surely going to blame the wolves for this 😉


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan