My daughter and I recently returned from a driving trip which included crossing parts of
This drive was different, because in mid-June the spring grasses were still green. The protective coloration of the antelope was useless in this season, and we could see them everywhere. Their ubiquity, in contrast to their usual elusiveness, was startling.
Pronghorns are not true “antelope”; they are not related to the antelope of Africa and
Pronghorn antelope may be tough and flexible in some ways, but nonetheless historically they have posed a conservation challenge. Their story has much in common with that of the bison, their formerly abundant comrade of the great plains. It is estimated that before the arrival of Europeans, antelope numbered close to 35 million (there were perhaps 30-70 million bison), ranging throughout the West from
500,000 is of course much better than 25,000, but, even now (estimates still range around one-half to just over one million), less than a thirtieth of the original antelope population remains. We have changed the world of the pronghorn beyond recognition. Pronghorn, for instance, despite their amazing speed, are poor jumpers, and therefore strongly affected by fencing. Since they are intensely territorial animals who also undergo seasonal migrations, range fencing can seriously interfere with pronghorns’ natural movements. (Having spent quite a bit of time over the past year reading stream restoration plans from around the West, I wonder whether the trend towards fencing off riparian areas to protect streambanks from cattle trampling often serves to cut off antelope from their water source.)
Pronghorn can, however, duck under fences, and so an important conservation measure is to simply remove the bottom wire or rung of fences erected within their range. This will allow the pronghorn passage while still restricting the movement of livestock.
While the general pronghorn population has recovered, to a point, in the
Why spend my first blog post talking about pronghorn? I moved to
Oh, give me a home… where the buffalo roam… and the deer and the antelope play…
As I said, I lost track, a little, of what I was, and I found myself talking to the antelope, out loud. “Hello, Antelope Brothers,” I said to them, and I meant it. They didn’t say anything. But I really did feel, during that hour, that I was among family. Give me a home, indeed.
I am still in