Biologists and volunteers rounded up 116 antelope east of Pueblo, Colorado on February 13 for relocation to Nevada. The pronghorns are going west in exchange for Desert Bighorn Sheep.
The joint project involving the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Nevada Division of Wildlife is part of ongoing conservation efforts between western states.
A helicopter was used to herd the animals into a funnel-shaped pasture about a quarter of a mile long. Once inside the fences, about 50 biologists and volunteers slowly walked behind the pronghorns to funnel them into the small end of the enclosure.
When the antelope reached the narrowest point, a net was dropped over them. The first thing done to subdue each animal is put a blindfold on it and secure its feet. The blindfold calms the animal, which makes it easier to handle them.
Each animal received a veterinary exam and blood samples were tested to ensure they are disease free.
Biologists recorded age and sex, and put an ear tag on each animal to allow them to track the animals’ movements after they reach their new home in Nevada.
The handlers worked as quickly as possible. Wildlife personnel sorted the males from the females and fawns before loading them on trailers for their journey to Nevada.
Not all 116 animals were captured at once. It took a total of four maneuvers, with no more than 25-30 animals under net at any one time.
“It was a win-win situation,” said Stan Abel of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “Nevada needed some pronghorns to establish a couple of new herds and Colorado had plenty to spare.”
The antelope were part of a large herd living on U.S. Department of Transportation property 15 miles east of Pueblo near a high-speed railroad test-site. Over the years, the herd reached a point that too many antelope wandered onto the train tracks, so biologists decided to thin the herd by sending some of them to Nevada.
In exchange, Colorado will be able to bolster its population of Desert Bighorn Sheep in the southwest portion of the state.
Colorado has a robust population of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, but the number of Desert Bighorns needed a boost.