A joint effort is underway to release Sonoran pronghorn into historic ranges in southwest Arizona, including one area which has not seen a wild population of the native species in over 100 years.
Made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on the Barry M. Goldwater Range (BMGR), the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (ORPI), and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), the Sonoran pronghorn is making significant strides towards recovery due to proactive management efforts.
Starting in mid-December pronghorn will be transferred from a captive breeding pen located on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and released at three locations throughout southwest Arizona. Ten pronghorn are scheduled to be moved into a captive breeding pen on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, established in 2011, where after an acclimation period of approximately two weeks, eight will be released into the wild on the Refuge. It has been over 100 years since a wild pronghorn population inhabited the Kofa range, and their return marks a historic event for the State of Arizona and wildlife conservation.
Additionally, six animals are to be released into the Barry M. Goldwater Range West, a portion of the military training facility managed by the United States Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, and six animals will be released onto the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, managed by the National Park Service, to augment wild herds that currently exist.
The Sonoran pronghorn have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1967, and the United States population was on the brink of extinction in 2002 due to habitat fragmentation, human disturbance, loss of forage and perennial rivers, and periods of extreme drought. The fastest land mammal in North America, the Sonoran pronghorn once roamed in the thousands throughout the Sonoran Desert. A subspecies of pronghorn antelope, the Sonoran pronghorn is smaller and lighter in color and is uniquely adapted for survival in desert conditions.
For more information on the Sonoran pronghorn, visit the United States Fish and Wildlife Service web site athttp://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/pronghrn.html, and Cabeza Prieta NWR athttp://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/cabeza/index.html.
Image courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department