New Mexico Exchanges Antelope for Bighorn Rams

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The first half of an international wildlife exchange between Mexico and the state of New Mexico moved 125 pronghorn antelope to Coahuila during the first week of March.

As part of the exchange, the state of New Mexico expects to receive 10 desert bighorn rams this fall to expand the existing gene pool in the captive sheep herd at the Red Rock Wildlife Management Area north of Lordsburg. The Red Rock herd originally was started with rams from the San Andres Mountains on White Sands Missile Range and ewes from Mexico.

Employees of the Department of Game and Fish used a helicopter to herd the antelope into a trap constructed with fencing. A total of 152 antelope were taken from cooperating private ranches in northeastern New Mexico's Harding County, reducing the antelope population in the area by about 10 percent.

In addition to the antelope sent to Mexico, a total of 27 animals were sent to Santa Ana Pueblo lands near Bernalillo.

All animals were examined by veterinarians and marked with ear tags before being shipped. Four antelope are known to have died during the operation.

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, which has been trapping antelope since the late 1930s, was the first state wildlife agency to develop an antelope trapping technique. In the early years, horses and automobiles were used to herd the antelope into the large funnel trap. Ultimately, a wall of trappers on foot walk the animals into a holding paddock. The trap personnel then pick them up individually for examinations and transfer to trailers for shipment.