The giant herd provides spectacular viewing opportunities for those fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time.
“That is the Carter Mountain herd,” said Leslie Schreiber, a biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department who’s based out of Shell.
Schreiber said the Carter Mountain herd typically spends summers in the Carter Mountain area northwest of Meeteetse, then migrates down into the Big Horn Basin in the winter.
“They cross the highway 120 between Cody and Meeteetse, then they either go into that Oregon Basin country, or they keep moving and go north of Emblem,” Schreiber said. “Some even go as far as south of Lovell.”
More than 1,000 animals were visible in the Whistle Creek area at sunset on Monday.
“These winter concentrations are normal, and it’s probably all the snow and wind that Cody has gotten,” Schreiber said. “They’re going down in elevation, looking for sagebrush to eat and just trying to get out of the deep snow. They’re built to withstand cold temperatures, but when the snow gets deep ... the severe weather gets them moving.
“In the spring, they just turn back around and follow that grass green-up up the side of Carter Mountain.”
She said the Carter Mountain herd was estimated at about 8,000 antelope through an aerial survey last summer — a slight increase over four years ago.
“The herd is doing well,” she said.
The herd typically lives in antelope hunt areas 78, 81 and 82. Hunt Area 78 includes the Lovell-Emblem area, and funnels into hunt areas 81 and 82 in the Carter Mountain area, she said.
Schreiber said the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management cooperated on a project last summer to replace about 15 miles of woven-wire fence along U.S. Highway 14/16/20 between Cody and Greybull. The new fence is wildlife friendly, with a smooth wire on the bottom.
“That project was kind of specific for this Carter Mountain herd, because antelope would rather go under a fence than over it,” she said. “They can cross the highway more easily.”
The old fence didn’t allow that, so the animals often were blocked from migrating.
“If they wanted to move north toward Lovell, they would just walk along that fence,” Schreiber said. “It just kind of bottlenecked them.”
Sometimes they got past one fence only to be blocked by the fence on the other side of the highway — and they got stuck in the highway right-of-way where cars could hit them.
With that many antelope in the area, Schreiber urged drivers to watch for the animals.
“I would always caution driers to be careful on that stretch between Cody and Emblem, even in the summer,” she said. “There’s always antelope on that stretch. They move from one side to the other.”