The Colville Confederated Tribes recently released 98 pronghorn on their reservation, marking the second such transplant operation in the last two years.
In January 2016, 52 pronghorn were released on tribal lands north of Bridgeport, Wash., returning the animals to the sage-brush covered landscape north of the Columbia River. Pronghorn are native to Central Washington but were hunted to extinction in the state in the early 1900s.
The tribe’s pronghorn reintroduction efforts started more than a decade ago, when biologists determined that the southwest part of the reservation would support a herd. The animals require a sagebrush habitat, with native grasses and water sources. And they need room to roam.
During the most recent operation, the tribe worked with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to coordinate efforts that included helicopter captures from several antelope populations near Elko, Nevada.
Eric Krausz, wildlife biologist for the Colville Tribes’ Fish and Wildlife Department, said they captured 12 males and 87 females – that included 26 fawns, 20 yearlings and 53 female adults. Krausz said that only one female antelope was lost due to injury.
“We collared 50 adult female antelope with GPS/VHF collars,” Krausz said. “The collars will track their locations approximately every 12 hours, detect mortalities after 24 hours of inactivity, and last for up to four years.”
Prior to the relocation effort, NDOW staff used a fixed wing reconnaissance flight and ground monitoring to locate antelope groups. Processing stations were set up to collect samples, give injections, apply collars or ear tags, and load antelope into trailers. In the end, the pronghorn were transported in four horse trailers.
“Our interest in targeting these animals was due to the loss of critical winter range caused by wildfires in Nevada during 2017,” said Cody McKee, big game biologist for NDOW. “Our objective was to reduce densities of pronghorn in these areas, and allow for those being transported to Colville lands time to acclimate to their new environment before the arrival of winter.”
At this time, it is estimated that approximately 29,000 pronghorn exist in the state of Nevada, making them the second most common wild-ungulate in the state behind mule deer. Pronghorn are North America’s fastest animal, with the ability to accelerate from zero to 40 mph within seconds.
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