Lee Richardson Zoo
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Pronghorn

Order Artiodactyla - Even toed ungulates

Family Antilocapridae - Pronghorns

Scientific Name: Antilocapra americona americona

 

PronghornDescription This animal may be distinguished by its cinnamon-brown to tan color with black or dark brown patches around the ears, over the eyes, around the muzzle, and at the angle of the jaw.  The cheeks, neck, and underbelly are white to cream.  The hair is coarse, brittle, and hollow.  Height at the shoulder is 32-42” and weight is 100-150 pounds.  The body is stocky, but the legs are long and slim.  Males have a large horn that has a prong in the front.  Females have a much smaller horn with no prong, or the horn may be absent in the female.  Unlike true horns, these are shed annually.  Facial markings on females are reduced.  Males are 10% larger than females.  Juveniles are gray-brown and change to tan by three months.

 

RangeHome Range:  Historically, may have ranged over
much of western North America from eastern Washington through the western parts of the Dakotas and Kansas from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico.   A small population has been introduced on Hawaii (Lanai).

 

Habitat Type:  Open short-grass prairie and desert.

 

Reproduction:   Mating season is from July through early October (September in Kansas).  Females generally reach reproductive age at 16 months, but have been known to mate as early as five months.  Males reach maturity at 15-16 months, but do not usually mate until they are three years old.  Gestation lasts 252 days, after which twins are born, though the first baby is usually a single fawn.  The mother’s milk is unusually rich in solids.  At four days, a fawn can outrun a human, and they begin nibbling vegetation at three weeks.

 

Diet in the Wild:  Sagebrush, forbs, cacti, grass and other plants.  They drink water readily when it is available, but can go for long periods of time without it if necessary.

 

Diet in the Zoo: Brome, alfalfa, ADF cubes, rabbit pellets, clovite, and extruded soybean.

 

General Information:  The pronghorn is the fastest terrestrial animal in North America, and is second only to the cheetah in the world.  They can attain speeds of over 50 mph and can maintain this speed for nearly 4 miles.   Because of their fast flight response, they require very open habitat with little obstacles.  They have excellent vision for seeing distance, but cannot see as well up close; in fact, they may ignore a motionless predator a few feet away.  When alarmed, the pronghorn warn others of danger using a technique called “blink and stink.”  Blink refers to flashing the white rump patches, which can be seen for several miles.  At the same time, they emit a strong musky smell.  Pronghorn are very curious and will investigate any new object in their habitat.  They do not jump fences, but will go under them if they can.  Hair is molted once a year in the summer.  As winter approaches, the hair lengthens and becomes spongy and filled with air cells that insulate against the cold.  Pronghorn can use the muscles of their skin to raise the guard hairs to allow air to circulate to the skin during warm seasons. 


During the winter, pronghorn congregate in large herds of up to 1,000.  During the spring and summer, however, they tend to stay in small, same sex groups.  Sometimes, a male will establish a territory with feces and urine, and will attempt to establish a harem for the breeding season.  These territorial males guard against the intrusion of other males, and will fight them in horn-to-horn combat.


Although often referred to as an antelope, the pronghorn is anatomically unique enough to be placed in a separate family from true antelope.  True antelope are found only in Asia and Africa.


Pronghorn were once as abundant as bison were in the 19th century; however, loss of prairie habitat and uncontrolled hunting (in the past) led to a dramatic decline earlier in this century.  Reintroduction programs have re-established them in many areas.  Some subspecies are listed as endangered, and the Mexican population is listed on CITES I.  In areas where the population is fairly stable, limited sport hunting is allowed.
           
Predators:   Large carnivores (wolves, puma).

 

Bibliography

Mammals in Kansas.  James W. Bee et al. 1981. University of Kansas Press. Lawrence, Kansas. Pp. 225-227.

 

The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals.  Don E. Wilson et al. Ed. 1999.  Smithsonian Institution Press.  Washington. Pp. 339-341.

 

Walkers Mammals of the World Volume II. Sixth Edition. Ronald M. Nowak. 1999. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, Maryland.  Pp. 1133-1134.

 

Wildlife Fact File.  Group 1:  Mammals. Card # 136.  1991.