During a recent aerial survey of Hart Mountain and Sheldon National Wildlife Refuges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists recorded a record number of summering pronghorn. These two refuges, headquartered in Lakeview, Oregon, have long been recognized as important summer and winter ranges for this exceptionally speedy land mammal. Each summer since the 1950s, Refuge staff has conducted surveys to monitor the pronghorn population trend. Results indicate pronghorn numbers have been increasing, particularly since the 1990s. Until recently the number of pronghorn within the refuges was estimated around 3,700 animals.
This July, all previous records were shattered when over 6,200 pronghorn were seen within the refuges, with high numbers also observed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Game in adjacent areas. Exact reasons for this sudden increase are unknown, but recent research has shown that this pronghorn population can range both between the two refuges and across adjacent lands. The area experienced a particularly mild winter and current habitat conditions outside of the two refuges are extremely dry. It is possible that during dry years, pronghorn are more congregated on the refuges but that during wet years are further dispersed across the larger area.
Sheldon and Hart Mountain Refuges, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, were established in the 1930s primarily for the conservation of pronghorn and also other wildlife native to the Great Basin.
In the 1920s, pronghorn were believed to be near extinction with less than 20,000 remaining; today, this uniquely North American species is estimated at nearly one million animals from Mexico to Canada.
Funding for survey efforts were provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and through generous donations from the Order of the Antelope.
For more information on the Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, please visit our website at http://www.fws.gov/sheldonhartmtn/ or call the Complex Headquarters at (541) 947-3315.
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