January 23, 2011 in Outdoors

Pronghorn quiz

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Molly Quinn photo

Pronghorn graphic
(Full-size photo)

How fast can a pronghorn sprint?

Up to 50-60 mph.

Are any land mammals faster than the pronghorn?

Only the cheetah is faster. However, the pronghorn also has the marathoner’s ability to throttle back to half speed and continue for miles. The cheetah couldn’t keep up in the long run.

What makes pronghorns capable of such speed?

They have extra-large windpipes, huge lungs and a large heart – allowing them to consume three times the oxygen of similarly sized animals.

How do pronghorns fend off predators?

Pronghorns prefer fairly flat, wide-open spaces that allow them to use keen eyesight to move away when danger shows up at long distances. Their open-country speed is unmatched in all but a perfect ambush. Fawns are most vulnerable to coyotes and other predators. Golden eagles have been known to swoop down on adult pronghorns and dig their talons into their spines as they run over the prairie until enough damage is inflicted to take the animal down.

What is unique about pronghorn horns?

Generally, antlered animals such as deer, elk and moose shed their antlers and re-grow them each year while horned animals such as bighorn sheep keep their horns and grown them larger each year.

However, the male pronghorn sheds its horns and re-grows them each year. The horns have a permanent bony core covered by a fibrous, hair-like sheath. Female pronghorns have barely visible horn spikes.

How long has the pronghorn been around?

Nearly 20 million years. Pronghorns are an ancient species, the only survivors of a group of hoofed mammals that originated in North America. They are considered one of the few living links with the Ice Age. Native Americans hunted pronghorns 30,000 years ago.

What creatures share the pronghorn’s family tree?

No other creatures in the world are related to the pronghorn.

What do pronghorns eat?

Almost any plant, even thorny cactus and noxious weeds. They prefer broad-leafed plants or forbs, sagebrush and shrubs. They also have a weakness for green crops such as alfalfa and winter wheat, especially when normal foraging conditions are tough.

Are pronghorns durable?

If necessary, they can survive bitter cold or desert heat and go without water for days.

Are pronghorns hunted?

Yes, they are still plentiful and support hunting in states such as Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, the Dakotas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, plus southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Sparser pronghorn populations are found in California, Texas and Manitoba.

Do these tough survivors have any shortcomings?

Pronghorns prefer to go under, not over, fences. Low wire or woven wire fences can stop antelope in their tracks or they will run along them. The antelope’s reluctance to jump has led many to believe they can’t jump. But they can. Maybe it’s just that they’re still getting used to fences, which have been stretched across their range for only about 150 years of their 20 million years of evolution.

SOURCE: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, National Geographic and staff research


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