By TWPD News
The continuation of the Trans-Pecos pronghorn restoration project took another step forward with the successful relocation of 130 pronghorn recently.
The animals were captured from healthy populations around Dalhart and moved to an area near Marathon to supplement severely declining populations.
The relocation process was coordinated by the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, Trans-Pecos Pronghorn Working Group, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and USDA-Wildlife Services.
The objective of the Trans-Pecos pronghorn restoration project is to restore Trans-Pecos pronghorn populations that have reached historic lows through translocations from burgeoning herds in the Panhandle. Pronghorn numbers and population trends are assessed through aerial surveys conducted each summer.
During the initial phase of the restoration project in 2011, about 200 pronghorn were captured and released on ranches near Marfa. TPWD estimates about 15-20 percent of the transplanted pronghorn remain.
"The historic drought that occurred in the Trans-Pecos shortly after transplanting the pronghorn was the primary reason for the high mortality rate," said Shawn Gray, TPWD Mule Deer and Pronghorn Program Leader. "However, in the area where the transplanted pronghorn were released they, and their offspring, currently compose a bulk of the local pronghorn population."
The 2013 relocation/release near Marathon occurred under significantly improved range conditions.
"The release area had favorable precipitation during the summer, as well as good winter moisture," said Gray. "We also spent six months working to prepare the release site, including fence modifications and predator management, all with landowner cooperation. Trans-Pecos field staff, headed by the local District Wildlife Biologist Mike Janis was instrumental in this effort."
Joachim Treptow, TPWD District Wildlife Biologist stationed in Dalhart spent endless hours coordinating with local landowners in the Dalhart area to obtain trapping permission and working on trap site logistics.
"Without his hard work and local landowner support this project would not have happened" said Gray.
At the capture site, workers took each animal's temperature to monitor stress, along with blood and fecal samples for disease surveillance. The pronghorn also received a mild sedative and other injections to minimize stress related to capture and transport. Ear tags were attached for identification, and 59 of the captured pronghorn were fitted with GPS radio collars to monitor movements. The collars will provide one GPS location per hour.
After processing, the pronghorn were transported by trailer to the Marathon release site. Dr. Louis Harveson, BRI director and Sul Ross professor of Natural Resource Management, said that "The pronghorn were in excellent shape and traveled really well."
During the next year, the BRI and TPWD will monitor the translocated pronghorn to determine survival, reproductive productivity, fawn survival, habitat utilization, and movements.
"We sincerely appreciate all the cooperation and support from the Dalhart and Trans-Pecos communities, because of their continued teamwork our state's pronghorn resource and all Texans are greatly benefited," said Gray. Without the many partnerships involved, this monumental project would have not occurred."