A herd of pronghorn — commonly known as antelope — in the Sonoita-Elgin area has grown from fewer than 100 animals in 2012 to more than 300 today, state wildlife officials report.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Arizona Antelope Foundation rebuilt the herd by employing grasslands restoration, fence modifications, predator control and translocations of pronghorn from healthy herds elsewhere, said department spokesman Mark Hart.
Game and Fish records note that there were 81 pronghorn in the area in 2012 when the Antelope Foundation received a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant for grasslands restoration projects there.
Hart noted that Game and Fish officers and foundation volunteers recently counted 318 pronghorn in the area.
The restoration work included removal of mesquite trees and prescribed burns. Predator control involved trapping or shooting more than 100 coyotes.
“The predator control is very targeted, limited in duration and specific to the time of year when fawns are being born,” Hart said. “They are very vulnerable then,” soon after birth.
The largest translocation of pronghorn brought 41 of the animals from New Mexico in 2014. “We swapped out Gould’s turkeys” from Arizona in exchange for the pronghorn, Hart said.
Fence modifications were another element in bolstering the pronghorn population.
“Pronghorn antelope are the fastest land animal in North America, capable of running up to 60 miles per hour (but) they are hesitant to jump over objects,” according to a Game and Fish news release. “As part of the project, many area landowners agreed to barbed wire fence modifications involving removal of the bottom strand and replacement of it with a smooth wire placed 18 inches off the ground. The modifications enabled the pronghorns to go under fences and move more freely throughout the area.”