|Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocarpa americana)
"Nothing can surpass the delicate and elegant finish of their limbs in which lightness, elasticity and strength are wonderfully combined. All the attitudes and movements of this wonderful animal are graceful and picturesque; and it is altogether a fit subject for the fanciful uses of the poet."--Washington Irving, American author.
The pronghorn antelope is about the size of a small deer, but with proportionally longer legs for even greater speed. Its color is a soft sandy brown with highlights of white on face, sides, belly, and rump. The glistening white rump patch is flashed when the animal is alarmed. Their distinctive horns are hollow and are shed each year. They have a keen sense of smell and superior eyesight. Pronghorns depend on flight for survival and they are able to run at speeds of 30-40 miles per hour for long distances. At the same time, they are social, inquisitive, and friendly, and their innocent curiosity sometimes betrays them into the presence of men with rifles.
Pronghorns are able to adapt to wide ranges of climate because of the unique structure of their coats. Their hair, containing numerous air cells, protects them against extremes both of cold and of heat. They also have skin muscles that allow them to make their hair "stand on end" to afford circulation and cooling. In winter the hair lies flat over a downy underfur. Pronghorn eat a wide variety of shrubs, weeds, and grasses including sagebrush, buffalograss, and saltbush. In very arid regions they may obtain water from succulent plants such as prickly pear cactus.
The young are born some time between March and June, depending on climate. The young remain hidden for several weeks, lying quietly on the ground except when they are being fed by their mother. When danger is near the kid will lie perfectly still with its head extended flat on the earth. They can remain this way for long periods of time if necessary. By the time they are ten days old the antelope kids can outrun a dog, but still may fall prey to coyotes and bobcats. Sadly, though, it is man who poses the greatest danger to these beautiful creatures. Their survival depends on refuges including several in southern Arizona (Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge).
Pronghorn in Buenos Aires NWR,
In the southeast corner of Arizona, pronghorn can often be seen near the Chiricahua trail, which is a 50-mile stretch of Arizona Highway 80 from Douglas, Arizona, to Rodeo, New Mexico. This road runs along the eastern edge of the huge Chiricahua mountain range. In addition to antelope, javelina and mule deer can be seen in the foothills bordering the road. Birds there include kestrels, prairie falcons, and red-tailed hawks.
On the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Arizona Ecology Arizona Ecological Services Field Office) there are photos of both sub-species--Chihuahuan pronghorn and Sonoran pronghorn. (See photos below.) The Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocarpa americana sonoriensis) is rare and lighter in color. It is on the endangered species list for Arizona.
Chihuahuan pronghorn, FWS photo by J. Rorabaugh
Sonoran Pronghorn in wash, photo by Timothy Tibbetts, NPS