Pronghorn Managers Meet in Idaho Falls

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One of the many wildlife management success stories is the uniquely American pronghorn antelope; numbering fewer than 50,000 in the early 1900s, they have increased to more than 700,000 today.

In some areas of the West, however, pronghorns are losing critical habitat and numbers are declining. This problem and others were discussed by wildlife managers and researchers from throughout western North America during the Western States Pronghorn Workshop in Idaho Falls May 17-19.

Pronghorn live in relatively flat terrain and, when that terrain is bisected by roads, fences and other barriers, the animals find themselves boxed into ever smaller areas. The problem of fences is growing throughout the West-fences that keep pronghorns from crossing roads, fences that block historic migration routes through narrow valleys to high mountain summer ranges, and fences that restrict the animals' access.

All across the West, woven-wire fences across traditional migration routes have resulted in the death of hundreds of pronghorns as they attempt to return to winter ranges during fall storms only to find the corridors blocked. Pronghorns, unlike deer, typically cross under fences, and this requires fences with a bottom wire at least 16 to 20 inches above the ground.

Research has shown that pronghorns can co-exist easily with human development when their needs are considered-for example, maintaining corridors and using "lay-down" fences where possible-to allow the animals to pass during critical seasons.

The Western States Pronghorn Workshop meets every other year in one of the western states or provinces, and provides wildlife managers from Mexico to Canada an opportunity to meet and discuss these and other issues. This year the workshop was in Idaho Falls, the first time in Idaho since 1976. More than 90 people attended the three-day event.