Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Continues
Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration successfully relocates 109 pronghorns
The Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Project recently and successfully relocated 109 pronghorns.
This marks the fifth year pronghorns have been transplanted from healthy populations around Pampa in the Texas Panhandle to an area northeast of Marfa. This supplements severely depleted pronghorn populations in the Trans Pecos region.
The Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University (BRI), Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Working Group, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) and USDA-Wildlife Services coordinated efforts. Quicksilver Air, Inc. conducted the capture.
The Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Restoration Project is a five-year, $1.4 million public-private partnership with the TPWF. To date, the project secured more than $900,000. The project will bolster declining pronghorn populations through wildlife management practices, including: translocations, habitat improvements, and predator management.
Relocation results encourage officials
At least 17,000 pronghorn historically roamed the West Texas region, but by 2012 they estimated at less than 3,000. As of last summer, pronghorn numbers had doubled, based on a TPWD aerial census survey.
“With the help of Mother Nature, translocations, and other management actions populations are bouncing back in this region of Texas,” said Shawn Gray, TPWD Pronghorn Program Leader. “We hope populations in our restoration areas will continue to grow and become another source for pronghorn in the next few years to help supplement other herds in the Trans-Pecos.”
Gray noted that survival and production rates among transplanted pronghorn have been encouraging over the last few years, thanks to improved range conditions and intensive management activities.
“Historic drought severely impacted survival in 2011 at just 20 percent, while good range conditions and more intensive management actions have led to much higher survival rates of between 70-85 percent during the other translocations,” he noted. “Over the last four years, herds that received transplanted pronghorn have done well and have had above average fawn production.”
Relocation process not ordinary roundup
At the capture site, workers take each animal’s temperature to monitor stress, along with blood and fecal samples for disease surveillance. The pronghorn also receive a mild sedative to minimize stress during capture and transport.
Workers attached ear tags for identification. They fitted 40 of the latest group of captured pronghorn with satellite radio collars, programmed to collect GPS locations every 15 minutes.
At about 1 ½ years post-release, the satellite collars will automatically drop from the animals for retrieval by researchers to refurbish and redeploy in future translocations. After processing, workers transported pronghorns by trailer to the release site.
“The capture could not have gone any smoother,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, Wildlife Veterinarian for TPWD. “The pronghorn were in excellent shape and traveled really well.”
During the next year, the BRI and TPWD will closely monitor the translocated pronghorn to determine survival, reproductive productivity, fawn survival, habitat utilization, and movements.
—article and photo courtesy TPWD