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ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
The lower mandible of the eastern white pelicanís beak is flexible and has a large pouch attached to it. read more >

Pronghorn

Scientific name: Antilocapra americana americana


CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Artiodactyla
FAMILY: Antilocapridae

FEEDING TYPE: Herbivore
STATISTICS: Weight: 79 - 154 lbs; Height: up to 3.5 ft; Length: up to 5 ft

DESCRIPTION:
The pronghorn has a tan or reddish-brown body with white on the underside and along the neck. A male pronghorn has black on the chin, behind the ears, and on the snout. These facial colorations have been referred to as a patch or a mask. The horns on a male pronghorn may reach a length of ten inches; the horns curve backward with a forward facing prong on each horn. The horns on the males, and most females, are covered with what is called a “keratinous” sheath. When the breeding season is over, this sheath is shed. A new sheath will grow up under the old one. If the female happens to have horns, they will not be any longer than her ears.

RANGE:
Antilocapra americana has a range starting around southern Canada, down through the western half of the United States to northern Mexico (including Baja California).

HABITAT:
Grassland and desert.

ADAPTATIONS:
The pronghorn has two very amazing qualities. The first is its speed. An individual pronghorn is capable of attaining speeds of 60 mph. Herds of pronghorn have been observed moving at 40 to 45 mph. A pronghorn can run several miles at top speed before tiring. The other interesting quality is the pronghorn’s 360-degree field of view. Its eyes bulge out slightly to give it this ability.

A pronghorn is both diurnal and nocturnal, meaning that it may be active in the day and at night. It may move up to six miles a day, and the male marks territory with its scent glands. The difference between its summer and winter range is around 100 miles.

Eye contact is important with the pronghorn. Aggression is shown by a sustained stare, while avoiding eye contact demonstrates submission. This is how rival males begin to strive for territory that may end in flight of one male or a brutal fight.

The pronghorn makes various sounds. A young pronghorn bleats to find its mother and the mother grunts to find her young. Anger is displayed by the pronghorn blowing its nostrils and raising its white rump patch to show alarm.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
Breeding occurs during the months of September and October. The male is usually sexually mature at 16 months but does not mate until three years of age. The female’s gestation period is generally 252 days and she gives birth initially to one baby, then twins in later pregnancies. Each pronghorn weighs 4.5 to 8 pounds at birth. Pronghorn young develop rapidly; in fact, a baby pronghorn can run faster than a human within four days of birth.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to humans, bobcats, eagles (when newborn), coyotes.
Predator to none.

WILD DIET:
Shrubs, broadleaf herbs (forbs), grass, cacti, leaves, roots and tubers

STATUS:
Subspecies A. a. sonoriensis and A. a. peninsular are classified as endangered by IUCN (1972, 1979 and by USDI in 1980) and are listed under CITES appendix 1. A. a. mexicana is CITES appendix 2. A. a. americana is listed as least concern for conservation by IUCN in 2008.

Before the USA expanded to the far west, an estimated 35 million pronghorn existed. By the early 20th century, only an estimated 20,000 remained. Unrestrained hunting and habitat destruction diminished the number of pronghorn. More recently, conservation and limits on hunting have allowed the wild pronghorn population to reach an estimated 500,000. Unfortunately, the pronghorn herds living in Mexico do not have the protection of limited hunting and conservation and the estimated population has dwindled to 1,200 there.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • The pronghorn is the second fastest land animal in the world with the fastest animal being the cheetah.
  • The pronghorn is the only horned animal that sheds the outer coating of its horns (the keratin sheath). These unique horns are why the pronghorn is classified in its own family, Antiliocapridae.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. IUCN Red List.
  2. Nowak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Vol 2. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1999, p.1405-1407.
  3. Pronghorn. Canisius College, Buffalo, NY. 12 Nov. 2008
     

Published: April 2009

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