Pronghorn are the last members of a unique family of North American mammals (Antilocapridae). Neither a deer, nor a true antelope, pronghorn are icons of the western prairies. They are the second fastest land animals and have the only true horns that fork, which they shed and regrow annually.
Pronghorn are highly selective foragers. Forbs, which are fleshy flowering plants, make up over 60% of pronghorn diets in the Trans-Pecos. However, pronghorn are highly selective among forb species, selecting the best parts of highly nutritious species. Important forbs include Filarees, Milkworts, Daleas, Evening Primroses, and Globe Mallows.
However, pronghorn must move to find these relatively scarce resources, relying on speed to avoid predators. Thus, the ability to move freely across the landscape is critical for pronghorn survival. While they can jump, pronghorn do not jump over fences, but instead, duck under them. Fences reduce the habitat area for pronghorn, increasing mortality risk.
Populations of this unique mammal have seen better days. Historically, pronghorn in Texas ranged as far east as Interstate 35 but are now restricted to the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, western Edwards Plateau, and southern Rolling Plains regions. The Trans-Pecos region once supported 60-70% of the state’s pronghorn, with numbers reaching a high of 17,000 animals during the mid-1980s. By 2012, the Trans-Pecos population reached a historic low of approximately 2,700 individuals.
In 2010, concerned landowners partnered with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Borderlands Research Institute to investigate the causes of pronghorn decline and take actions to reverse it. Since 2011, pronghorn translocations and restoration efforts have informed researchers and biologists on to developing management strategies to increase habitat connectivity, forage production and quality, and facilitate pronghorn survival.