CIMARRON – New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officials plan to capture almost 200 pronghorn Jan. 14 and 15, from a private ranch near Cimarron. Department biologists worked cooperatively with the landowners when selecting the site and helped them to moderate damage to irrigated croplands caused by high numbers of pronghorn.
Department workers will use a helicopter to herd pronghorn into a fenced chute and corral them in a pen. Once captured, employees will vaccinate, radio collar and load the pronghorn into covered trailers for transport. Several dozen people will assist with the operation, to ensure that both the pronghorn and people are kept safe.
The Department developed the trapping technique in the 1930s using airplanes, automobiles and horses. Wildlife agencies worldwide now use New Mexico’s technique to capture and relocate animals.
The Department will relocate most of the pronghorn to Forest Service land outside of Fort Stanton, near Capitan, and to Bureau of Land Management land northwest of Roswell, as well as sending a small number of pronghorn to Arizona.
“Arizona requested the Department’s help in augmenting pronghorn herds in areas of their state experiencing population declines,” said Stewart Liley, big-game program manager for the Department. In exchange for 40 pronghorn, the state of Arizona will provide New Mexico with 60 Gould’s turkeys, to add to the flocks in the Peloncillo and Animas-San Luis Mountains of southern Hidalgo County. The additional turkeys will help grow New Mexico’s populations of Gould’s turkeys.
The Department plans to release 75 pronghorn near Fort Stanton to augment a herd, and an additional 75 pronghorn will be moved to the Macho area northwest of Roswell. The Department selected the Macho site because of recent habitat improvements including modified livestock fencing that will allow pronghorn to cross, the addition of wildlife drinking tanks and agreements with Bureau of Land Management and grazing permittees to continue improving the grasslands. Also, late fall rains increased the available grass and brush that will supply food for the pronghorn and hide spring fawns from predators.
The Macho area has the potential to allow pronghorn to range over 1 million acres and greatly increase their population in New Mexico.
“Pronghorn need wide spaces free of impassable fences to feed, and to outrun predators,” Liley said. “Although pronghorn are the fastest land animal in North America they cannot outrun predators if they cannot escape over a fence or safely cross a road.”
Researchers from the Department and Texas Tech University will study the newly radio collared pronghorn to determine the movement patterns of adults, the survival rate of fawns in their new habitat and the overall success of the translocation. Results from the study will help to guide the Department’s choice of future release sites and the success of different types of habitat and habitat improvements.
The Department’s high pronghorn trapping success rate has led many wildlife officials to request the Department’s assistance in training their employees and in acquiring pronghorn to augment or start herds. In the past five years, the Department has assisted the country of Mexico and the Pueblo of Santa Ana by providing pronghorn.