By Tess O’ Sullivan, Lava Lake Science & Conservation Program Manager

Where do all the elk, deer, and pronghorn that spend their summers on the ranch go in the winter?

This is the question we wanted to answer, at least in part, this past October when the Lava Lake Institute for Science and Conservation successfully launched a pronghorn migration study in the Pioneer Mountain Foothills.

Pronghorn Bucks

Pronghorn Bucks

Pronghorn are North America’s fastest land mammal, a species that is both resilient and fragile, as well as incredibly beautiful. Pronghorn can travel great distances each year between their summer and winter ranges with some of these migration routes known to be thousands of years old. But because pronghorn have poor depth perception, they will not jump fences, and so their passage can be easily disrupted. Our friends at the Wildlife Conservation Society have done some groundbreaking work on pronghorn migration in Grand Teton National Park, and their studies inspired us to do a similar project here in the Pioneers-Craters region.

Our follow-up surveys have revealed some fascinating answers. Within a week of placing the GPS/radio collars on the pronghorn, some of these animals had traveled over 85 air miles to the east, where they appear to be spending the winter, with several thousand other pronghorn. We are looking forward to documenting the return of these inspiring animals this spring and we will keep you posted!

We want to thank our partners in this project particularly Dave Savage, of Savage Air Services; his assistant Annabel (the helicopter); the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, led by Mark Hurley, Senior Research Biologist; the many landowners who provided access to their properties; Kim Murray of Snow Leopard Trust; Scott Bergen of Wildlife Conservation Society; and our friends at The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Idaho Conservation League and Wood River Land Trust.

For a story on this project, visit http://www.sunvalleyonline.com/news/article.asp?ID_Article=5884

For more information on pronghorn research, visit http://www.wcs.org/globalconservation/northamerica/401875/pathofthepronghorn

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