Pronghorn Antelope

Pronghorn Antelope

Scientific Name: Antelocapra americana
Classification: Big game
Life Span: Five to ten years

 

Size:

An average adult male weighs about 125 pounds and females typically weigh about 95 pounds. Males stand 31-40 inches tall at the shoulders and females stand 28-36 inches. The overall length, including body and head ranges from 40-60 inches.

 

Description:

The body is distinctly marked with white on the underside and rump. When alarmed, the guard hairs on the white rump patch are extended vertically, making the white rump patch visible for great distances. The back is brown with shades of cinnamon and the males have a black cheek patch, muzzle and forehead. This dark mask is much less pronounced in females.

The horns are made up of a bony inner core and an outer sheath, which is shed annually. Both sexes have horns but the female horns are rarely longer than two inches if present at all. The average male horns are approximately 12 inches in length and have a prominent prong on one of the two branches.

 

Habitat:

Pronghorn prefer gentle rolling to flat, wide-open topography. Low sagebrush and northern desert shrubs are the preferred vegetation types. Areas such as these with low understory allow Antelope to see great distances and permit the animals to move quickly to avoid predators.

 

Range:

Pronghorn Antelope are found primarily in the valleys between mountain ranges in northern and central Nevada. Wildlife managers have helped Antelope extend their range in Nevada through numerous transplants and water developments.

 

Natural History:

Pronghorn Antelope were probably first observed in North America by European explorers in Mexico in the mid-16th century. Lewis and Clark collected the first specimen for science in 1804 and Peter Skeen Ogden reported the first Antelope in Nevada in 1829. In the mid 1800’s Pronghorn Antelope were probably more abundant than today but decreased in number during the height of livestock and mining development and settlement. In the early to mid 20th century, conservation efforts including the establishment of the Charles Sheldon Antelope Refuge, helped increase antelope numbers in the state.

 

Food Habits:

Over 150 different species of grasses, forbs and browse plants are eaten by Antelope, which allows them to occupy a variety of habitat types. Succulent plants and sprouts are preferred. Some of the main components of Pronghorn diet in many locations include sagebrush, antelope bitterbrush, saltbrush, rabbitbrush, cheatgrass, Indian rice grass, crested wheat grass, lambsquarter and shadscale.

 

Breeding:

During a two to four week mating period in early fall, bucks fight for harems of up to 15 does. After a gestation period of about 250 days, does give birth, in solitude to one fawn at the first birth and twins thereafter. Fawns weigh five to seven pounds at birth, but grow quickly on the extremely rich doe’s milk. At five days the fawns can outrun a man, and at three weeks begin nibbling vegetation. Although fawns occasionally breed, most antelope mate for the first time at 15-16 months old and breed annually thereafter.

 

Status:

Drought and climatic conditions affect populations in the short term, but generally, the statewide population of pronghorn is increasing.

 

Reason for Status:

Conservation efforts in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s in addition to the antelope’s ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions have contributed to a healthy population throughout Nevada.

 

Management & Conservation:

The Nevada Department of Wildlife maintains and continually updates a species management plan for Pronghorn Antelope. Wildlife managers actively manage Antelope by surveying Antelope herds and then adjusting seasons and tag limits accordingly. Several transplant projects have successfully reintroduced them to former ranges throughout the state. Maintaining good habitat conditions is the key to ensuring healthy antelope populations across the state.

 

Fun Facts:

Pronghorn are the fastest running hoofed animal in north America. Adults have been clocked at 55 miles per hour and may reach 60 miles per hour for short spurts. Pronghorn have a disproportionately large heart and lungs, with very efficient circulatory and respiratory systems. Their eyes are located far back on the sides of their head to allow a field of view of nearly 360 degrees. These adaptations allow them to detect approaching predators and escape by running at high speed for extended periods of time.

The genus name, antelocapra comes from a cross between an antelope and a goat. The pronghorn is the only species in the genus and is not a true antelope. It is not closely related to the antelope of Africa or the goats of the western hemisphere. This unique animal has been roaming the plains of north America for thousands of years.