Tag Archives: PRONGHORN ANTELOPE

Pronghorn Capture-collar Project Could Identify Key SE Oregon Habitat

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

ODFW will capture 155 pronghorn antelope in the southeastern part of the state during the week of Sept. 22 in order to deploy GPS transmitters to identify migration patterns and winter range.

OREGON WILDLIFE MANAGERS PLAN TO CAPTURE AS MANY AS 155 PRONGHORN ANTELOPE TO STUDY THEIR MIGRATIONS AND WINTER RANGE USE IN THE STATE’S SOUTHEASTERN CORNER. THIS BAND WAS PHOTOGRAPHED IN NORTH-CENTRAL OREGON. (CHAD ZOLLER)

In partnership with federal agencies, ODFW wildlife biologists working under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Secretarial Order 3362, aim to improve habitat quality in western big game winter range and migration corridors through this data-collection operation.

Since data are lacking for pronghorn movements across most of southeastern Oregon, this operation will provide important information in identifying where critical corridors occur on the landscape.

The timing of the project primarily falls after the archery deer and elk seasons but before the rifle deer season starts Sept. 28. Some hunters scouting for deer may see the capture crew operating in the Malheur, Harney and north Lake County areas. Hunters should be aware that low-flying helicopter flight patterns during this four to five-day period are targeting pronghorn for capture. ODFW and its contractors will work to avoid impacting deer hunters who are pre-season scouting in the area.

“We don’t expect the helicopters to have an impact on hunters who are scouting,” said Don Whittaker, ODFW ungulate coordinator. “Pronghorn and mule deer should be in different areas during this operation since the animals use different places on the landscape. There are some exceptions such as Steens Mountain and the Trout Creek mountains, but as a whole, there won’t be much overlap,” added Whittaker.

Background info from DOI SO 3362 State Action Plan

Movement and migration corridors are important biological parameters for ungulate populations. These areas are best delineated using movement data collected from animals using GPS transmitters and modern, rigorous geospatial analyses. While Secretarial Order 3362 recognizes the need for habitat improvement and conservation of migration corridors, more data are needed in Oregon to properly identify where critical corridors occur on the landscape.

In particular, data are lacking for pronghorn movements across most of southeastern Oregon. ODFW is currently collecting GPS data from hundreds of mule deer throughout their eastern Oregon ranges that will facilitate identification of critical movement and migration corridors on all land ownerships, including the timing of migration and potential barriers

The majority of pronghorn habitats in Oregon occur on BLM lands. Rigorous data documenting movement and migration corridors for pronghorn in Oregon is currently extremely limited.

Central Washington Pronghorn Meetings Tonight, Tuesday Evening

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.

PRONGHORN RACE ACROSS A GRASSY FLAT IN THIS WDFW AERIAL IMAGE TAKEN BY BIOLOGIST MARK VEKASY. (MARK VEKASY, WDFW)

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 Colville Confederated 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.

 

Central Washington Pronghorn Management Subject Of 2 Meetings, Survey

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) wants to hear from residents on how to manage pronghorns on portions of central Washington. The agency will host two public listening sessions to gather stakeholder feedback on pronghorn antelope management.

PRONGHORN WANDER ACROSS FRIGID DOUGLAS COUNTY FIELDS IN LATE 2016 FOLLOWING COLVILLE TRIBES TRANSLOCATIONS TO THE RESERVATION ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER FROM THERE. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

“Pronghorn are some of the rarest and least-known large mammals in Washington. Historically, they’ve been a natural part of our ecosystems across the flat grassland areas of eastern Washington, though loss of habitat and changes in climate have made it difficult for a sustainable population to survive,” said Rich Harris, game division section manager. “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.”

The first meeting is 7 p.m. Monday, June 3 at Pioneer Hall in Mansfield. The second meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 at the Benton Rural Electric Association, 402 7th St, Prosser.

WDFW is seeking the public’s feedback to develop a pronghorn antelope management plan. At the meeting, WDFW staff will give a background of pronghorn in Washington, address issues and concerns, and identify opportunities for pronghorn management.

In addition to the two public listening meetings, we invite the public to provide their feedback in our online pronghorn survey (https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/at-risk/species-recovery/pronghorn-antelope-management). The survey will go live later this week.

Pronghorn antelope are small, between 70 and 150 pounds, and eat small flowering plants. They coexist with livestock, but can cause damage to crops. Unlike mule deer, pronghorns do not jump well, so fencing can cause problems when they try to escape predators.

Pronghorn antelope populations declined significantly in Washington prior to the 19th century, when they were extirpated or locally extinct in Washington.

Washington state officials previously attempted to reintroduce pronghorns on several occasions in the 1900s. In 2011, the Yakama Tribe reintroduced 99 pronghorns onto their reservation. In 2016 and 2017, the Colville Confederation Tribes reintroduced roughly 150 pronghorns onto their reservation.

Since these reintroductions, the pronghorns have migrated from the reservations onto state-managed lands. WDFW is working with local communities to create a pronghorn management plan for Washington.

Washington Wildlife Commission To Hear About Eastside’s Pronghorns

Pronghorns popping up on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission agenda for this weekend’s meetings got my hunter’s heart racing.

“Just a briefing on status or should we look for something along the lines of potential permit hunt development?” I asked state speedgoat manager Richard Harris.

He got back to me pretty quickly and tempered my enthusiasm somewhat.

“Just a briefing, at the request of the Commission. Premature for the latter …,” Harris replied via email.

Dangit!

Still, if you’re interested in the expansion of antelope herds in the eastern half of the Evergreen State, his presentation to the citizen panel does make for some interesting viewing.

Its 26 pages covers the native species’ history, its extirpation by the very early 1900s, and state (mid-1900s) and tribal (2000s) reintroduction efforts, as well as maps showing where those captured in Nevada and released onto the Yakama and Colville Reservations with GPS collars primarily range and have wandered.

Some on the former reservation have gone as far east as I-82 between Tri-Cities and the Columbia, and as far south as almost to the giant landfill above Roosevelt in Klickitat County.

Some on the latter have gone as far south as near the mouth of Moses Coulee.

A HERD OF PRONGHORN ANTELOPE ON ALERT ON THE FROZEN TUNDRA OF NORTHERN DOUGLAS COUNTY, WASH. (ERIC BRAATEN, WDFW)

The presentation also touches on population monitoring (last summer we reported there were roughly 250 out there, and WDFW and the Yakamas are planning another joint late-January survey), landowner issues (pronghorns are prone to alfalfa addictions), and the state’s existing policies.

The request for a briefing came from Commissioner Kim Thorburn of Spokane, and with one-third of the antelope in Washington now occupying ground where WDFW has jurisdiction, Harris will brief the commission on future steps, which includes:

• Preliminary management plans for both Upper Columbia Basin and Lower Columbia Basin pronghorn groups
• Work closely with Tribes to develop complementary plans and strategies
• Public meetings to gather input and suggestions
Whether or not the tribal reintroductions ever result in limited state hunts, it’s still one to keep an eye on if you’re a Washington wildlife world watcher.

 

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250 Pronghorns Wandering Central Washington

Somewhere around 250 pronghorn are roaming the open country of Northcentral and Southcentral Washington, thanks to tribal releases on two reservations in recent years and the birth of fawns.

A minimum of 118 were counted by Colville wildlife biologists during a recent aerial survey, according to a Grand Coulee Star article out last Wednesday.

A PRONGHORN WANDERS THROUGH COUNTRYSIDE. (NPS)

Surveyors counted 89 adults and 29 fawns. Fifty-one of those animals are wearing telemetry collars, and it’s likely there are more untracked antelope both on and off the Colville Reservation.

Fifty-two were set free there in January 2016 and another 99 this past October.

A number have crossed the Columbia River into largely private Douglas County and some have wandered as far as Wenatchee and Quincy, according to the Star.

Colville wildlife managers say they are trying to work with the state Department of Transportation and local farmers how to design pronghorn-friendly fences, as the speedsters are apparently not very good at jumping.

Antelope, however, can be problematic for alfalfa growers.

The northern pronghorns came from the same state as those released earlier this decade on the Yakama Reservation, Nevada.

A joint state-tribal March 2017 aerial survey of Benton, Klickitat and Yakima Counties yielded a population estimate of 121, and last fall Yakama biologists let 52 more loose.

“There was high survival of the translocated animals, so the herd is presumably a bit larger that the spring count of 121 animals now,” said WDFW wildlife bio Jason Fidorra.

He expects the tribe to release another 48.

State pronghorn manager Rich Harris says that WDFW and the Yakama Nation will conduct an aerial survey this coming winter.

Big Game Habitat, Hunting Get Boost With Secretarial Order

Western big game got a boost today with the signing of an order to improve habitat, migration corridors and winter range.

Expanding hunting opportunities are also included under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decree that benefits mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere.

A HERD OF MULE DEER MOVE ACROSS WINTER RANGE. (DOI)

The order aims to use “best available science” and improve collaboration between the many landowners where our herds roam.

“American hunters are the backbone of big game conservation efforts, and now working with state and private landowners, the Department will leverage its land management and scientific expertise to both study the migration habits of wildlife as well as identify ways to improve the habitat,” said Zinke in a press release. “For example, this can be done by working with ranchers to modify their fences, working with states to collaborate on sage brush restoration, or working with scientists to better understand migration routes.”

He signed Secretarial Order 3362 at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Salt Lake, and it was praised by major hunting organizations.

“The goal of this effort lies at the heart of our conservation mission, ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. In order to do that we must maintain a focus on winter range and migration corridors for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation chief conservation officer, in the press release. “We support stronger collaboration between landowners, agencies, conservation groups like RMEF and all others seeking to enhance habitat for the benefit of our wildlife populations.”

The Mule Deer Foundation similarly praised the order.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Land Tawney was encouraged and said he was interested to see how it would play out.

“We commend the secretary’s decision but likewise urge him to apply the same rigorous approach to other resource management challenges, such as our Western sagebrush steppe, home to hundreds of species of wildlife and offering access to top-notch hunting and fishing,” the president of the Missoula-based organization said in a press release. “These unique public lands and waters deserve no less. Theodore Roosevelt would no doubt agree.”

As nice as it is to see habitat and hunting prioritized, Zinke’s recommendation to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah and pro-mining and drilling stances on federal lands have left some unsettled. Energy develoment in Wyoming was seen as a risk to the 150-mile migration of one Wyoming mule deer herd. Today’s decree was termed “bureaucratic window dressing” by a left-leaning think tank.

Zinke was the subject of an informative interview and article by former Outdoor Life editor Andrew McKean last month.

He has also recently called for moving land managers to the West from DC and reorganizing regions around watersheds instead of political lines.