The fastest mammal in North America, the pronghorn is able to run more than 40 mph. Their safety depends on the ability to outrun predators.
They can be found in many western U.S. states, and southern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Living and breeding in open terrain, pronghorn feed on grasses, shrubs, and other plants.
Although they are often called an antelope, and look and behave like one, they are not an antelope. Their closest relative, in fact, is the giraffe.
Named for a short prong on the male’s horns, the horn is a slender blade of bone that grows from the skull. Skin covers the bone, just like in a giraffe, and the pronghorn sheds the horn sheath annually.
Antilocapra americana are the only surviving member of the Antilocaptra family. In the early 1900s this mammal was heading toward extinction due to over-hunting.
At that juncture, the Boone and Crockett Club brought forward protection procedures to prevent this special mammal from disappearing. Then there were problems with enclosing the pronghorn in fenced areas, and they continued to die off until there were only 13,000 individuals remaining.
Legislation and continued preservation did eventually save this species. Today, due to their full recovery, it is legal to hunt pronghorn in the western states, limits and permits are required. Estimated population is 500,000-1,000,000.
More about pronghorn here.
The first wild one I ever saw was while driving a back road in southern California. He was alone, grazing, and shot out of sight pretty quickly.
After that I craved more moments with the pronghorn, and had the chance over the next five years to spot them in five different states: California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming.
On vacation in Montana, we came across about a dozen pronghorn. Knowing they were quick to bolt, we stayed in the car and drove very slowly down the isolated gravel road. I drove while Athena snapped photos out the moon roof.
In Africa there are dozens and dozens of different antelope species, and thousands dotted across the savanna as far as you can see.
In America we have one species, and it’s not technically even an antelope.
That we still have vast expanses here is a wonderful thing. That we have a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play, is outstanding.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander