Thursday 14 May 2020

Desert mystery: Why have pronghorn antelope returned to Death Valley

MAY 13, 2020
by Louis Sahagun

More than a century after railroads, ranchers and hunters vanquished their ancestors, pronghorn antelope are returning to this unforgiving expanse of desert along the California-Nevada border.

A photo of a lone male and a harem of five does shared on Death Valley's Facebook page in late April was only the latest indication that the American pronghorn, North America's land speed champion, may be extending its migratory range into the Mojave Desert once again from cooler seas of sage nearly 100 miles to the north and east.

"It's not all gloom and doom, woohoo!" the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association announced to wildlife advocates nationwide. "If nothing else, enjoy the feel-good photo and I hope you're doing well."

The pronghorn's reappearance here is a bit of a mystery, as most animal species are making tracks for higher and cooler elevations as the climate warms. Some say the interloping antelope could find themselves in dire straits once summer heat blankets the park.

Along with the recent photo, park officials noted: "Pronghorn may be some of the newest residents to our park! While on patrol, rangers have recently spotted a herd of these quick-footed animals and at least one lone male exploring the park, likely the result of a migration that has been years in the making.

"While pronghorn have been witnessed in the park on occasion for the past two years," they added, "this increase in their presence suggests these graceful creatures may become long-term residents of the valley."

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