VERNAL — Pronghorn from Parker Mountain in southern Utah have been introduced to new homes in northeastern Utah south of US-40.
During the week of Dec. 15, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources moved 49 pronghorn to the Book Cliffs. Biologists also moved 50 pronghorn to the Nine Mile, Anthro unit southeast of Duchesne.
“We released 49 antelope in the Book Cliffs: 11 bucks, 30 does and eight doe fawns,” says Dax Mangus, DWR wildlife biologist. “On the Anthro unit we released 50 animals: 12 bucks, 1 buck fawn, 27 does and 10 doe fawns.”
Mangus says all of the animals were marked with pink ear tags. The tags have numbers on them. Mangus says the tags will help biologists estimate the number of pronghorn that survive and where they move to.
The DWR released the pronghorn to help offset a severe decline in the number of pronghorn in northeastern Utah. Extended drought and other impacts to the pronghorns’ habitat are the reasons for the decline. Without supplementing the herds with new animals, the biologists are afraid the herds might be lost. As the surviving animals in the herds get older, the potential that successful breeding will occur is declining.
In addition to introducing new animals, DWR biologists have enhanced water and forage conditions in the areas where the pronghorn live.
“We released the pronghorn as high up in pronghorn habitat as we could,” Mangus says. “We did this to avoid the lower ranges where impacts from drought and energy development have increased in recent years.
“The release sites also correspond with habitat improvement work we’ve done, including building guzzlers and other devices that hold water. We’ve also enhanced the ranges by thinning the pinion/juniper woodlands and setting prescribed burns. Both of these techniques help promote the growth of forage plants that are desirable for wildlife.”
DWR biologists consider themselves lucky to have a convenient source of pronghorn to supplement the herds in northeastern Utah.
“The Parker Mountain pronghorn herd continues to produce excess animals. Those animals have to be removed,” Mangus says. “Taking those animals and moving them to areas where antelope populations are struggling is a win-win proposition.”