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Sonoran Pronghorn Returns to Wild Habitat

WASHINGTON (CN) - An experimental population of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn has been reintroduced to its wild habitat in Arizona by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Known as "prairie ghosts" because they are so elusive, the Sonoran pronghorn is the fastest land mammal in North America.

The sites for reintroduction of the antelope-like creatures are in the King Valley, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range-East, in Maricopa County.

The agency has designated the Kofa population as a nonessential experimental population, allowing legal incidental taking of the pronghorn within the reintroduction area, providing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies greater leeway in managing the population.

The pronghorn was listed as endangered in 1967 due mostly to the pressure of hunting, and competition for food with cattle. In recent years, despite protection under the Endangered Species Act, the pronghorn has been threatened by human incursion into its habitat, including livestock grazing, suburban development and highway construction.

In 2002, a severe drought was the primary cause of a major die-off of the pronghorn, and the U.S. population declined in 2002 by 83 percent, to 21 animals. The agency then built began a semi-captive breeding facility, constructed in Childs Valley, Ariz., and stocked it with wild Sonoran pronghorn, with the objective of producing 10 to 25 fawns each year for release into newly established populations.

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