Tonight and tomorrow evening state wildlife managers will host a pair of listening sessions in North- and South-central Washington to hear from residents about how to manage building pronghorn herds in the two regions.
The first is Monday’s at Pioneer Hall in the tiny Douglas County town of Mansfield from 7 to 9 p.m., and Tuesday’s is at the offices of the Benton Rural Electric Association (402 7th St.) in Prosser, in the lower Yakima Valley, during the same hours.
WDFW is looking for feedback as it begins to develop a management plan for the native species being brought back to Washington by the Yakama Nation and ColvilleConfederated Tribes.
Transplanted to their sprawling reservations since 2011 and 2016 respectively, dozens have wandered off onto public and private lands in surrounding counties.
A February aerial count found a minimum of 248 in Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties, while a survey in the northern Columbia Basin early last summer turned up at least 118.
“I think they’re great to have on the landscape, and we’re working with local communities to produce an effective plan to manage them,” said WDFW’s Rich Harris in a press release last month announcing the meetings.
For those unable to make either meeting, his agency has posted a quick online survey with background on past reintroduction efforts, attitudes towards the species and suggested management approaches.
Pronghorn are listed as big game but while they’re not open for hunting, ideally the population builds enough for permits to be available someday.
One problem for pronghorns is that much of their potential range also supports livestock operations, but unlike other open-country species like mule deer, antelope don’t jump very well, meaning they don’t get along well with fences. They also are partial to alfalfa, which could create conflict with hay growers.
But besides longtime strong support from Safari Club International’s Central Washington Chapter, antelope are also receiving attention from Conservation Northwest.
“Recovering pronghorn populations in Washington is important for the landscape, because they increase biodiversity and restore a part of the shrub-steppe ecosystem,” states the Seattle-based organization, which is working to link species and habitat in the state’s core sagelands.