Idaho’s antelope population appears to be on a downward slide, if the number of pronghorns taken by hunters is any indication, state Department of Fish and Game officials say.
A chief reason is the loss of sage desert to farm fields and homes.
“I certainly think that habitat is by far the biggest issue,” wildlife biologist Jon Rachael said. “We also have remaining habitat that is not as suitable as in other states, such as Wyoming.”
Hunters took about 1,400 Idaho antelope last fall. The department sold 937 antelope tags to archers. About 2,120 rifle hunters drew out for controlled hunts.
Through the 1970s, sportsmen harvested 1,300-1,500 antelope each year. That climbed to about 2,000-2,500 in the 1980s, but has tapered off in this decade. Rachael said the agency has not found a cost-effective way to count the total number of pronghorns, although the best guess of regional managers a couple years ago put that figure at about 10,500.
Several other factors dictate the number of antelope.
“Certainly, winter weather conditions have an effect, especially in that open country. There’s no place to hide,” Rachael said. “Coyotes can also take a significant number of mule deer and antelope fawns.”