When you drive through the west, it isn’t uncommon to see large numbers of antelope dotting the countryside. Yellowstone is home to the last remaining northern pronghorn (antelope) herd, numbering around 200, and they are at risk. Disease, harsh winters, harassment from predators, and degraded habitat are all factors. They have survived since the Pleistocene because of their ability to run at 30 mph indefinitely with top speeds pushing 60 mph, and are considered the fastest animal in North America. Due to their unique biology, pronghorn don’t generally jump fences like elk or deer; they crawl under them! Their habitat has been drastically limited due to fences and development on private lands north of the park. They are strangely ill-adapted to land that is fragmented by fences and development. Fences not only restrict their ability to escape predators, but also their ability to migrate over the long distances required to find adequate snow-free habitat and forage.
For the past two years, the Yellowstone Field Office has worked with landowners and the Gallatin National Forest to help restore the ancient pronghorn migration pathway north of Yellowstone. National Parks Conservation Association staff and over 60 volunteers removed two miles of wooden fence and barbed wire, and modified fences in several critical bottlenecks to improve the pronghorn’s corridor from just a few feet to over a quarter mile in places. This past fall more than four miles of barbed wire fence was removed and another three miles of wildlife-friendly fence put in place.
After a century of being fenced in, pronghorn are now appearing back on the landscape on the east side of the Yellowstone River north of Yellowstone National Park. And hopefully that will remain a common sight for years to come. If you’d like to experience the pronghorn and other wildlife of Yellowstone, call today (800-247-0970) to hear about the custom trips we offer.