Sonoran Pronghorn: The Praire Ghost
The Sonoran Pronghorn
(Antilocapra americana sonorienisis)
According to the Endangered Species Act, an endangered species is “ a species that is in danger of extinction throughout all, or a significant part of it’s natural habitat.” There are over 700 plants and animals that are listed in the “Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants” list, and more that are being added every day. Did you know that up to 100 species become extinct every day.
One animal that is lucky to be alive is the Sonoran pronghorn, also called the “prairie ghost.” There are five subspecies of pronghorn. The subspecies are the American pronghorn, the Peninsular pronghorn, the Mexican, or Chihuahuan pronghorn, the Oregon pronghorn, and last, but not least, the Sonoran pronghorn. Two of theses species are endangered. They are the Mexican pronghorn, and the Sonoran pronghorn. The Sonoran pronghorn almost became extinct in the late 1800’s. When the settlers were settling into southwestern United States, they were clearing off land, to build farms. Unluckily the area that was being cleared was where the Sonoran pronghorns lived.
Pronghorn have brown hair on their back and sides. They have lighter colored hair on their belly. They have bright white markings on their head and neck. The males have large, black pronged horns, therefore called “pronghorn.” These foot-long horns are shed annually. The females have short black horns. The males don’t have horns when they’re born. The horns gradually grow when they get older. Females usually weigh 75-100 pounds, a mature buck weighs between 100 to 130 pounds. Their shoulders have a span of between 30 to 36 inches, and their head-to-tail length is 55 inches. Like most other deer, pronghorns have a fat body, and long, slim feet. Pronghorns are the one of the fastest animals on the Western hemisphere, reaching speeds of 60 mph. They can have a steady speed of 45 mph for over four miles. Their leaping ability is also very good, reaching distances of 20 feet, and higher. Since the pronghorn’s ability to hear isn’t great, they must depend on their sight to guide them. Their eyes protrude from the side of their head, and long black eyebrows hang down to protect the eyes. These eyes are very large, about two inches in diameter. The pronghorn’s unique characteristic to erect patches of it’s bristle-like stiff body hair allows it to release heat in the hot desert summers. The same hair insulates it against the cold in the winters, therefore reducing the loss of these animals. Pronghorns stick up their white rumps to signal their herd when they see any danger.
Pronghorns live in semi arid, open grasslands, and some also live in deserts. They love open areas, so they can graze, and run around. They live through central Sonora, and Baja California. Pronghorns basically live on the West coast of America, and northern Mexico. They can manage living in areas where there is less than 14 inches of rain in a year. The rain in those areas usually comes in April and July.
The trees and plants found in these biomes are:
Needle-and thread grass, galetta, Indian rice-grass, western wheatgrass, blue gramma, forbs, shrubs, and grasses.
The other animals found in these biomes are:
Bighorn sheep, bobcat, white nosed coati, collared peccary, gila monster, horned lizards, rattlesnakes, sidewinder, western coral snakegulls, coyotes, rats, mice, gophers, squirrels, rabbits, common king snakes, and gopher snakes.
Pronghorns are diurnal creatures. That means they are awake in the mornings, and sleep at night. They are most active in early mornings, and at night. Pronghorns are highly mobile, tending to move seasonally. The cold winters are very tough for these creatures, so they survive them in groups. In the spring, the pregnant females isolate themselves from each other. Pronghorns are very curious, and social animals.
When pronghorns run in groups, does lead the herd, and the bucks manage the rear.
Pronghorns eat grasses, weeds, chasimo, cacti, juniper, winterfat, forbs, and shrubs. They are primary consumers. Forbs make up the largest part of their diet. Shrubs follow close behind, and then grasses. Forbs are eaten in spring, and late fall. They are good for production. Shrubs are eaten yearly, but mostly in winter. Grass isn’t important, but the young love it.
Pronghorns aren’t that careful about what they eat. Sometimes they eat deadly plants such as:
Larkspur, loco weeds, rayless goldenrod, cockleburs, needle-and- thread grass, yucca, snakeweed, Russian thistle, and saltbrush. Eating these deadly plants sometimes leaves them dead.
Zoologists believe that there are only about 256 Sonoran pronghorns left in the United States, and 220 left in Mexico. The population in America is dying, because other animals are overgrazing on the pronghorn’s food, drought, damming of water-ways, and diversions of rivers. The population in Mexico is decreasing because of deforestation, and poaching. Man poaches pronghorns for skin, and trophies, but not for their horns. Some other species of pronghorns are hunted for food. The population of pronghorns is also greatly decreasing due to coyotes. Coyotes are the primary predators of pronghorns.
Pronghorns breed by a system called “harem breeding.” Harem breeding occurs when many females of a group get bred by one male. This male often gathers up to 15 does. The most aggressive bucks do the breeding. To attract the females, the male jumps crazily around, and runs in circles. The first litter that the female has usually consists of one fawn. Twins occur in subsequent litters. Triplets are unusual, but they occur in spring. The breeding months are September and October. Pronghorns mostly mate when they’re between 16 and 17 months of age. The gestation period is 250 days. A newborn fawn weighs from five to nine pounds.
It’s very hard to find out how to save the Sonoran pronghorn, since there are so few of them left. One way to save them is to write letters to our senators, or other government officials. We can also help make stronger laws about killing these creatures. Why should man even be allowed to hunt these lovely animals? Since other animals overgraze on the pronghorn’s food, people should fence off the pronghorns eating area from the other animals. This will disappoint the pronghorns, because of the little space, but at least it won’t let the pronghorns starve.
Some places to write to are given below:
Defenders of Wildlife
1244 19th Street N.W.
Washington D.C 20036
National Wildlife Federation
1400 16th Street N.W
Washington D.C. 20036-2266
World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street N.W
Washington D.C. 20037-1175
You can get a lot of information about how to save the pronghorn from writing to these places. Please write to them.
Let the “prairie ghost” live.