February 3, 2016

BRI TRANSLOCATES 112 PRONGHORN TO MARFA PLATEAU 

January 25 to 28, 2016, students and staff from the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) participated in a pronghorn capture and translocation effort aimed at helping to restore pronghorn populations in west Texas. BRI has partnered with Texas Parks and Wildlife, The Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and private landowners in order to make this translocation effort a success. Over the course of 4 days, 112 pronghorn were relocated from the Northwest Texas Panhandle where a surplus of pronghorn foraging on agricultural crops has led to landowner conflict. The captured pronghorn were released onto the Marfa Plateau, where pronghorn populations have seen a steady decline since the 1980s before reaching an all-time low in 2011.

To increase the Marfa population quickly and promote continuation of growth over the long-term, relocation efforts were focused on young animals and females. Only 1 adult buck was captured, and the rest of the captured animals were either fawns (bucks and does), or adult does. Ultrasounds conducted at the capture site showed that over 85% of the tested does were pregnant, some with twins, meaning in many cases for every doe captured, 2 (and maybe even 3) new animals will be added to the Marfa population.

Since 2011, translocations have helped to boost pronghorn populations in west Texas. The release site on the Marfa Plateau was carefully chosen, based on availability of excellent habitat and forage, and the presence of “pronghorn friendly” fences, which will allow the pronghorn to move freely across the landscape, escape predators, and access new areas.

Blood, tissue, and fecal samples were collected from each captured animal to test for disease. Each animal was also marked with ear tags so that they are identifiable as a translocated individual. GPS monitoring collars were placed on 49 does, and 22 fawns were fitted with VHF collars, which will allow BRI researchers to monitor movement and survival after release. One adult buck was also fitted with a GPS satellite monitoring collar, which will send location updates daily to BRI researchers, allowing them to monitor his movements in near real-time.

BRI is also conducting concurrent research on pronghorn diet, water use, disease concerns, and recruitment (birth rates and fawn survival) in order to gain a more complete understanding of the issues effecting pronghorn populations in west Texas, and how land owners can best manage their property to support healthy pronghorn populations.

To view more photos from the pronghorn capture please visit the BRI Facebook Page and for more on west Texas Pronghorn Research, visit the BRI Pronghorn Program Page, or contact Dr. Whitney Gann.

If you would like to contribute to the restoration of these animals please contact BRI at 432-837-8225.