Three pronghorn showed up in a very odd location: the extreme southeast corner of Washington, more than 100 miles from the closest known population of the speedy ungulates elsewhere in the state.
The two bucks and a doe were spotted earlier this month in northern Asotin County, and were subsequently observed by the district wildlife biologist Paul Wik with assistance from the state Department of Transportation.
The news came out in WDFW’s weekly Wildlife Program report, which also states:
“It is not known how long it has been since naturally recolonizing pronghorn have been seen in the State, but it has likely been a very long time.”
Ninety-nine antelope were reintroduced onto the Yakama Reservation in January 2011 and have been doing well. Those were all ear-tagged, though not their progeny.
Four times in the past 80 years, state officials transplanted the species to Washington, but the last of those disappeared into the sage of the eastern Colockum in the early to mid-1980s (see March 2011 Northwest Sportsman).
While fishing with Northeast Oregon outfitter Mark Moncrief several years ago now, he told me about an antelope or two that came around the west side of the Wallowas but subsequently disappeared. An online map shows some occur on the opposite side of the Blue Mountains from Asotin County.
“We don’t know where they came from,” said WDFW’s special species manager Rich Harris in Olympia.
As it so happens, some landowners in northern Walla Walla County, between the reservation and Asotin County, have been talking with WDFW about putting pronghorns there. Harris, Wik and regional wildlife manager Kevin Robinette as well as federal and tribal officials visited the site in mid-May.
Harris notes that while pronghorn are a game species in Washington, there is no season on them.
Other news inside the May 13 report includes WDFW responses to wolf activity and sightings in Northeast Washington, the Channeled Scablands, Douglas County and Ross Lake as well as word of an impressive bighorn sheep count at Lincoln Cliffs, the visit of 50 school kids to the Swanson Lakes Wildlife Area (where they got to mess around with GPS equipment), and work to renew and get new landowners into hunter access agreements in the northern Columbia Basin.