Volunteers, Wildlife Officials Gather Pronghorn Antelope For Testing And Redistribution
As the sun peaked over the mountain tops on Dec. 16, the sound of helicopter blades pounded across the sage flats south of Loa and Bicknell in south-central Utah. The sound of the choppers was a sure sign that biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources were conducting a pronghorn capture in Wayne County.
“The Parker Mountain area produces a lot of pronghorn,” said Teresa Griffin, regional wildlife manager for the DWR. “Over the years, we’ve captured thousands of pronghorn here. After capturing them, we moved them to various locations across Utah. We’ve also given some to other states.”
Capturing pronghorn requires helicopters and a lot of helping hands.
Skillful pilots round the pronghorn up by flying low over the sagebrush, driving the animals toward a large funnel-shaped corral.
“Pronghorn can run faster than 60 miles per hour,” Griffin said, “so herding them can be very tricky. These pilots have to be the best in the business just to keep up with them.”
After passing the mouth of the trap, the sides of the trap slowly taper to a small gate. When the pronghorn pass the open gate, it closes behind them, enclosing the animals in a curtain-shrouded pen.
Once the animals are in the pen, the labor really begins.
“Muggers” with heavy clothes, eye protection and gloves move into the pen and tackle the animals to the ground. After subduing the animals, blood samples are taken, and some of the pronghorn are fitted with ear-tags or identification collars. Then, they’re loaded into horse trailers for transport to their new homes.
The Dec. 16 – 17 operation netted a total of 236 pronghorn, a small portion of the 2,150 pronghorn estimated on the unit. (The management objective for the unit is 1,500).
On the same day the animals were captured, they were released in northeastern Utah, southeastern Utah and the central part of the state. The pronghorn will bolster herds in those areas that can use a few more animals.
More than 150 people assisted in the trapping effort. They included personnel with the DWR, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Members of sportsman's organizations and many other volunteers also helped.
“We could not have pulled this off without all of the help,” Griffin said. “All those hands are what made the capture operation successful. I am so grateful for all of the people who helped and the love they have for wildlife.”