Craig Stowers, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3553
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wildlife biologists and veterinarians recently completed two pronghorn antelope captures in an effort to learn more about this species.
This three-year study was implemented to identify important migration routes and other habitats. This information will aid land-use planners and public and private stakeholders when making decisions regarding proposed and existing land-use practices.
A helicopter and a net gun were used to capture 10 adult female pronghorn from the Bodie Hills herd and fit them with GPS collars. The herd of approximately 150 animals summers in Mono County in California and winters largely in Mineral and Lyon counties in Nevada. This herd was established with animals transplanted from Lassen County in California in the late 1940s to early 1950s.
Ten adult females were also net gunned and fitted with GPS collars in Modoc County as the initial step in a five-year study of pronghorn antelope inhabiting northeastern California. Pronghorn populations in this area have never fully recovered to levels which existed prior to the severe winter of 1992-93 — the current population estimate is approximately 4,000 animals. This study will help scientists identify factors inhibiting population increases as well as develop management programs and practices that should lead to a population increase and possible range expansion.
The captures are crucial in the development of future management plans and actions for this species. Pronghorn antelope were once one of the most numerous large mammals in the state, with populations estimated to have been as high as 500,000 prior to the Gold Rush era when they were nearly extirpated by market-shooting to feed California’s rapidly expanding population. They are now largely restricted to northeastern California and several other locations that support small herds created by previous translocation efforts.
CDFW was assisted in this effort by Leading Edge Aviation, Inc. based in Idaho. Leading Edge Aviation, Inc. is a private firm specializing in wildlife capture work with extensive experience working in several western states.