Habitat Selection of Translocated Pronghorn during Seasonal and Acclimation Periods in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas

Howell Pugh, Louis A. Harveson, Carlos E. Gonzalez, Dana L. Karelus, Shawn S. Gray (TPWD)

Translocation is a common conservation tool used to manage animals whose populations have been threatened by decreasing numbers, low genetic variability, or to remove problem animals. However, translocations are stressful to the animals involved and are expensive to conduct. To increase the probabilities of success, when performing translocations, it is important to consider the animals’ resource requirements and have an understanding of their habitat selection, as available habitat may have a large effect on the success of the translocation.

With several translocations completed, a large dataset is available to investigate habitat selection of translocated female pronghorn in the Trans-Pecos. To do this, we have investigated habitat selection for translocated collared female pronghorn in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017. Objectives were to investigate differences by: 1) Acclimation period, 2) peak fawning period, and 3) climatic seasons (dry season and wet season). For the acclimation period, 167 collared translocated female pronghorn were used to determine habitat selection. Samples were unbalanced, ranging from 41 to 9,570 GPS locations for individuals. Preliminary results indicate translocated female pronghorn select most for tobosa grasslands.

Additionally, pronghorn select for loamy plains grasslands over the remaining land cover types in all four periods analyzed. The other grasslands, scrublands, shrublands, and other land cover categories were avoided for in all four periods. While previous studies have described optimal pronghorn habitat, this may be the first study to identify habitats used by pronghorn at a large temporal and spatial scale. TPWD’s online Ecological Mapping System of Texas (EMST) mapping application provides land managers and landowners a way to be able to directly relate the findings of this study to the boundaries of the property they manage within the Trans-Pecos. Using the online EMST application, managers can identify the areas pronghorn select for and target those areas to improve pronghorn habitat.

Funding sources: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Potts-Sibley Fellowship, Nau Endowment.