WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reintroduce the endangered Sonoran pronghorn into historical habitat in Arizona. 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 the King Valley, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Yuma County, and the Barry M. Goldwater Range-East, in Maricopa County.
The proposal to reestablish the Sonoran pronghorn would designate it as a nonessential experimental population allowing legal incidental taking of the pronghorn within the reintroduction area.
The pronghorn was listed as endangered in 1967 due mostly to the pressure of hunting and predation. 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 in a major die-off of the pronghorn. The U.S. population declined in 2002 by 83 percent, to 21 animals. After the die-off, the agency began a semi-captive breeding facility, constructed in Childs Valley, Ariz., in 2003, and stocked it with wild Sonoran pronghorn with the objective of producing 10 to 25 fawns each year for release into newly established populations.