Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sonoran Pronghorn



I'm BACK from an overdue R & R vacation which required all gadgets to be gone, a book, some light birding, and some healthy hikes. And I feel much much better. This past week I was in the middle of nowhere-ville and surrounded by bears.  It was an amazing time.  I'll be back catching up with everyone again.  But back to this post! So I've waited a long time to find these amazing creatures and on our day of birding, it would happen.  It was truly one of the most exciting finds of the day.  The Sonoran Pronghorn.
Ranchers settled Arizona lands in the early 1900's and wiped out the Pronghorn from our grasslands as cattle took over and established themselves around this land.  Fences were placed all around these massive grassland properties and blocked many of the routes for these animals in Southern Arizona. Put up a border fence and it was even more difficult for the species to enter and leave the country. The Pronghorn and Jaguar almost completely disappeared. In 2002, drought and habitat loss reduced the pronghorn to only 21.  At that point, a captive breeding program began and US Fish and Wildlife intervened to prevent their extinction. 
The habitat of the Arizona Pronghorn Antelope are prairies and grasslands and are most abundant in the North Central plains of the state. Herds are often seen just north of Prescott Valley and those that travel on Interstate 17 can frequently see herds in the wild between Cordes Junction and the edges of Camp Verde, Arizona. They also inhabit the high elevation meadows between forested areas in East Central areas of Arizona. There is a sub-species of "Sonoran Pronghorn" that are on the endangered list that exist in small numbers in the desert areas of Southwestern Arizona. Antelope are grazing animals primarily feeding on grasses, weeds, cactus and small Juniper Pine.

Known as "prairie ghosts" because they are so elusive, the Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) is the fastest land mammal in North America. Smaller and lighter in color than other pronghorn subspecies, it is uniquely adapted for survival in harsh arid conditions.Kathie and I were tipped off by a ranger that the Pronghorn had crossed a dirt road.  We quickly drove to the spot reported and were lucky to glance these amazing creatures from a distance.
Approximately 100 Sonoran pronghorn remain in the wild in the United States. There is also a small population held in a captive breeding program on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Arizona. There are approximately 650 pronghorn in Mexico.
A slow recovery is happening around these areas but it is very slow. However today they are much more visible than they were 10 years ago.  You can find them near Portal, Sonoita, or the Buenos Aires Wildlife Preserve.  They also live in the state of Sonora, Mexico.  Meanwhile, most of the thousands of miles of fence have been taken down over the past ten years around the Buenos Aires Wildlife Preserve.  The grasslands are making a comeback and it appears that a balance may soon be achieved.  As that happens, species that once roamed these areas like the Ocelot and Jaguar have had more sightings now that things are getting "fixed".  More tomorrow from our adventures....



16 comments:

  1. I've seen the pronghorn north of Prescott near Chino. Only from a distance. These sound like more fun than bears. Welcome back.

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  2. The vast landscape around Sonoita, especially to the east from that town is where I have seen them. The other place is Chino Valley north and east of Preskit.

    I believe there are some Sonoran Pronghorn also in northern Mexico, but they are endanger too. They are a smaller brand of Pronghorn, just like the Sonoran Beaver and Desert Quail & Mourning Doves are smaller and lighter to be better able to live in that environment.

    Nice photos of something hard to get to pose for you

    -

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  3. Curiosa especie de cérvidos.. Son muy guapos.. Un saludo.. :-)))

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  4. what a beautiful creature...this elusive prairie ghosts!! it's nice to hear that they're coming back from their previously dwindling numbers!!

    great sightings!!

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  5. Good shots and nice to read Chris.

    Greetings, Joop

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  6. Thank goodness that these beautiful Antelopes are returning to their natural habitat, and I am filled with admiration for all the Wild Life Refuges that do such good work.

    Lucky for you that you saw the ranger so you could take these fabulous photos.
    Cheers.

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  7. A very interesting post Chris and the photos are remarkable.

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  8. that is so great! i hope their herds continue to grow.

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  9. Great spotting and great photos! At first I thought you were in Africa! :-)

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  10. So glad you have had a nice relaxing break and feel much better :) The Sonoran Pronghorns are beautiful - so glad they are slowly recovering.

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  11. Glad to see you're finding so many new and beautiful animals to photograph :)

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  12. Hey, I was just talking about this animal in class last week and was asked if they were native or exotic by one of my students. Now I know for certain...native!
    Glad you had some rest and relaxation.
    Don't look now, but our blog counters have been reset to ZERO!
    I do hope it is only a temporary condition. I've had 11 pageviews so far and you've had 14. Aarrrgh and Yuck!
    David/:0)

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    1. OH no!!!! What the heck! Hopefully they will fix that little issue soon. Thanks for the info. Glad I could help. These were amazing discoveries and I feel lucky that we saw them. They are quite elusive.

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  13. Chris, what wonderful photos and information! I did not know all of this about the pronghorns! I'm glad you researched it! I found out some interesting information while doing some research for a blogpost today and it will impact you! I'm not telling, but read my blogpost tomorrow to see if you can figure it out! You will be happy!

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    1. I can't wait to read what you've found!

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  14. The pronghorn are cool critters. They remind me of my trip to Yellowstone. Great photos, Chris!

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