Pronghorn

The Path of the Pronghorn Antelope Video
An icon of the American West faces new obstacles as it travels an ancient route through sagebrush plains.
©WCS
Pronghorn Photo
The pronghorn—North America’s fastest land mammal—also embarks on the longest land migration of any hoofed animal in the lower 48 states, a trek of more than 100 miles between Grand Teton National Park and the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

The fastest land animal in North America, pronghorn can travel at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour. Today, pronghorn inhabit open grasslands, sagebrush, and desert habitats in all the western states, as well as several Canadian provinces and Mexican states. Annual pronghorn migrations are astonishing sights, with herds numbering in the hundreds traveling great distances to leave deep snow areas. One of the most famous is the “Path of the Pronghorn,” stretching over 100 miles from Grand Teton National Park to the Upper Green River Basin in Wyoming. WCS scientists discovered this to be the longest migration of an ungulate in the lower 48 states, formally named it, and helped make it the first federally protected wildlife migration corridor.

Pronghorn are a uniquely North American ungulate. Evolving alongside the long-extinct North American cheetah, which caught prey in a short dash, forced the pronghorn to become both a sprinter and an endurance runner. Whether escaping from danger or making long-distance migrations to find food, movement comes easily for pronghorn and is the species’ primary survival strategy.

Fast Facts

Scientific NameAntilocapra americana
  • Pronghorn don’t jump, and are therefore unable to clear fences.
  • These herbivores eat a wide variety of plant foods, including cacti and plants that are toxic to domestic livestock.
  • Their population sizes have been reduced about 95 percent since the 1800s.

Challenges

Pronghorn live in almost constant motion, historically covering great distances during their annual winter migration. Today, fences, roads and energy development increasingly fragment the open spaces of the West, and traffic, recreation and other human disturbances are driving pronghorn out of their traditional habitats. As the North American landscape is divided and developed, the species’ long-distance migrations are under increasing threat and their efforts to find areas without snow cover can fail. Although pronghorn are not in trouble in much of their habitat, in some places their populations are declining. Coyotes are a major predator of pronghorn fawns and may be contributing to this decline. Understanding predator dynamics is critical to conserving pronghorn populations in affected regions.

WCS Responds

WCS has assembled one of the largest and longest-term data sets on pronghorn in the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming, where we are studying the impacts of energy development on the species. By tracking the movements and monitoring the survival of hundreds of animals since 2005, WCS is helping to identify the conditions that will allow pronghorn to persist in the multiple-use landscapes of North America today. Our goal with this research is to understand how energy development may impact pronghorn populations in order to inform how and whether development should proceed in Wyoming. This work could serve as a model for other regions where pronghorn are found, helping private landowners, management agencies and industry, including natural gas and mining operations, develop the west in a way compatible with pronghorn and other iconic wildlife.

In addition, WCS is looking into predator-prey dynamics affecting some pronghorn populations. In the Jackson Hole area, for example, pronghorn numbers have declined since the early 1990s, to approximately 200. The reintroduction and expansion of wolves in the region may positively impact the pronghorn population by limiting coyote numbers. Finally, WCS-North America’s Corridor Conservation Initiative is playing a crucial role in maintaining open corridors that will allow pronghorn to continue moving freely and will protect astonishing annual migrations. The initiative aims to protect and interlink crucial habitats through field-based research, outreach, and policy, preserving a basic need for pronghorn and other North American species.

WCS Projects

Corridor Conservation in the American West

Food, water, shelter, and the freedom to roam—these are the basic needs of wildlife. WCS-North America works to protect and interlink crucial wildlife habitats through field-based research, outreach, and policy.

From the Newsroom

Path of the Pronghorn: Leading to PassagesDecember 11, 2013

Scientists from WCS have worked for over a decade to protect pronghorn migrating along a 100-mile long path to and from Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Jeff Burrell, WCS Northern Rockies Program Coordinator, knows that if this corridor is severed, pronghorn will be lost from the park.

Rise in Roadkill Requires New SolutionsMay 16, 2013

The U.S. highway system includes more than 4 million miles of road. Roads crisscross even the most remote parts of the country, fragmenting habitat and causing regular encounters between motorists and wildlife.

A Conservation Solution to Vehicle-Wildlife CollisionsApril 3, 2013

Writing an op-ed for the Casper Star-Tribune, WCS Conservation Scientist Jon Beckmann explores how pronghorn make their way through the western United States. Safe passages allow North America’s fastest land mammal to safely navigate the 100-mile route between Grand Teton National Park and Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin.

Wyoming’s Safe Passages Protect People and PronghornOctober 15, 2012

WCS celebrates newly minted highway crossing structures that help keep Wyoming’s roads safe for drivers and ensure a healthy future for migrating pronghorn and other wildlife.

As Natural Gas Fields Grow, Pronghorn Habitat ShrinksMay 3, 2012

A five-year behavioral study shows that pronghorn in Wyoming are losing their wintering grounds to large-scale industrialization.

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