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Fighting Pronghorn Decline on Multiple fronts
 
Pronghorn fawn (Antilocapra americana americana)Background:
Arizona’s American Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana americana) have suffered a significant decline in recent years, as survey estimates dropped from 12,000 in 1987 to 8,000 by 2000. Particularly hard hit areas, such as Anderson Mesa near Flagstaff, are of special concern. Habitat loss and the more recent severe drought in our rapidly developing state continue to reduce pronghorn population size and viability. There is little management can do to mitigate the effects of drought, however, the Research Branch initiated a project in 2002 to determine how 9 potentially limiting factors contribute to low recruitment (the survival of a fawn to adulthood) that might be improved with additional management.

Fences, encroachment of trees and shrubs into grassland, and human recreational activity can decrease mobility and increase stress. Malnutrition, water shortages, and diseases can directly impact populations, or cause infertility, terminate pregnancies, and impede fawn development, affecting populations in an indirect manner. Predation of fawns, particularly by coyotes, is a leading cause of fawn mortality, and lack of fawn hiding cover contributes to predation. The Research Branch is investigating how each of the above limiting factors may cause low fawn recruitment in several sites in Arizona. The goal is to identify how a series of variables can work in concert with one another to decrease or increase fawn recruitment and make subsequent recommendations to provide environments in which pronghorn herds can flourish.

Location:
In order to gain a comprehensive view of how variables function throughout the state, study locations were selected in different habitat types. Pairs of study sites were selected in different regions, with one site representing consistently low fawn recruitment, the other consistently higher recruitment areas. Site pairs near Prescott, Flagstaff, and Springerville, are representative of higher elevations in central, northern , and eastern Arizona. We are also analyzing data on pronghorn in two sites located in southern Arizona desert grasslands.

Approach:
Most of the fieldwork takes place over the spring and summer months, when fawns are born and nursed. Water sources and recreational traffic are monitored regularly, and pronghorn nutrition is examined during several critical periods in the reproductive cycle. Relative abundance of predators, and cover for fawn bed sites are measured every spring. In the fall, data on disease exposure (using hunter-harvested animals) are collected and soil health indices are measured. Fences and tree/shrub encroachment are measured during the off-season.

Research biologist Kirby Bristow reading visibility board to measure available fawn hiding coverAfter collecting data, comparisons between high and low recruitment sites will be made to determine the individual significance of each factor and its distribution over the habitat types. Analyses will also investigate correlations between variables to derive combinations that have compounded effects. Data collection will come to a close in August 2004, and the completion date for the final report is 30 June 2005.

Benefits:
Results from this study will identify potential causes of low fawn recruitment and guide AZGFD in managing pronghorn statewide by showing general trends affecting recruitment levels. Most importantly, it will demonstrate the relationships between different factors and allow the development of comprehensive management plans that address the combination of conditions, rather than attempting to counteract individual issues.

For more information contact:
Stan Cunningham, Arizona Game and Fish Department, 5000 W. Carefree Highway Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000 .
Phone: (623) 236-7661 E-mail: scunningham@gf.state.az.us
 
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Related AZGFD Info
- Antelope
- Coyote
- Predator Species
- Wildlife News
- Watchable Wildlife
 
External Resources [More]
- Arizona Antelope Foundation
- North American Pronghorn Foundation
- National Wildlife Federation
- DesertUSA
- University of Michigan (Pronghorn)
- University of Michigan (Sonoran Pronghorn)
- FWS
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Downloads [More]
- Study plan [PDF, 2.6mb]
NOTE: The following files are PDF's and require the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.For text-only, use Adobe Access.

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