Dean M. Chriss
Pronghorn Buck in Meadow
(Click image to enlarge)
Pronghorn are not antelopes but they are known colloquially in North America as
the American antelope, pronghorn antelope, prairie antelope, or simply antelope.
They have the largest eyes of any hoofed animal in
relation to their body size. Pronghorn eyes are dark with defined eyelashes, and provide
them with nearly 300 degrees of vision. Both males and females can have horns. Female horns are much smaller, reaching only 4 inches in length, while
male horns can be as long as 20 inches.
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the pronghorn was very abundant in
the region of the Plains Indians and the region of the indigenous people of
the Northwest Plateau. It was hunted as a principal food source by the local
tribes. The pronghorn featured prominently in Native American mythology and
oral history. Lewis and Clark were the first Europeans to see pronghorns in
the early 1800s. They referred to these animals as "antelope" or "goat".
Clark was the first European to kill a pronghorn. By the 1920s, hunting
pressure had reduced the pronghorn population to about 13,000. The
protection of habitat and hunting restrictions have allowed pronghorn
numbers to recover to an estimated population between 500,000 and 1,000,000.
Two subspecies are still endangered in the United States. The Sonoran
pronghorn has an estimated population of fewer than 300 in the United States
and 200-500 in Mexico, while there are approximately 200 Peninsula pronghorn
in Baja California.
All pronghorn follow the same migration corridors year after year,
generation after generation. Today, the migration corridors that link the
summer breeding grounds and winter grazing areas are being fragmented by
roads, cities, fences and energy development. Habitat fragmentation is the
main threat to the long term survival of America's pronghorn.