Pronghorns reasserted themselves as the fastest land mammals in Washington in January, thanks to a sportsmen’s group that joined with the Yakama Nation for an end run around state bureaucracy and environmental red tape.
Volunteers from Safari Club International and tribal members released 99 of the prairie speedsters on the Yakama Indian Reservation after trucking them 700 miles from the site where they were captured in Nevada.
Washington Fish and Wildlife officials said they were supportive of the reintroduction. However, by not involving the state agency in the pronghorn capture and release, the Yakamas avoided dealing in advance with issues that get sticky for government agencies, such as dealing with environmental reviews and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association.
The pronghorns quickly broke into small groups and dispersed as much as 40 miles in different directions, many of them off the reservation. At least six went over mountains to the Klickitat River area.
Although at least two of the pronghorns were killed in vehicle collisions and one is known to have drowned in an irrigation ditch, the herd of mostly females reportedly produced a good number of fawns.
As winter approached, the pronghorns appeared to be regrouping. More than 50 were in one bunch on the reservation in December.
SCI’s Central Washington Chapter won the club’s prestigious Diamond Conservation Award for the effort, and the chapter isn’t done, said spokesman Glenn Rasmussen.
“We’re going back with the tribe around Feb. 11 to where they’ll be rounding up pronghorns in a different part of Nevada,” he said. “The goal is to haul back another 150 head to make sure there’s good genetic diversity.”