If 53 are now trapped in “The Hole,” how many will survive?

The Jackson Hole News and Guide has reported that 53 pronghorn antelope have been spotted on the National Elk Refuge well after the herd normally migrates out of cold and snowy Jackson Hole, over the Gros Ventre Mountains, and then down southward to the Pinedale area to winter on the edge of the Green River Desert.

Much of this is now a developed natural gas field, but the herd has grown nonetheless.

They have been doing this migration for thousands of years, and recently the herd has grown to a near record (about 400). However, when some of the pronghorn don’t understand or heed the changing season, they often do not survive in Jackson Hole even in average winters.

People like to see these fast running animals, but not see them starve or freeze to death, but that might happen to about 13% of the herd.

Recently the herd benefited greatly by the construction of a wildlife overpass over the busy highway near Pinedale. This overpass has almost eliminated the pronghorn and other animals that were hit near the chokepoint at Trapper’s Point at the edge of their wintering range. We have done several stories on this.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides.

7 Responses to Are more than 50 pronghorn now locked in Jackson Hole for the winter?

  1. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    Does anyone think these animals can survive on their own without human intervention?

    • avatar Sid says:

      this has happened a couple times before with more pronghorns and the majority survived but, there have been times when most didn’t make it.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Ida Lupine,

      Sid is right.

      In addition, so far the winter has been mild except for an early sub-zero December cold breakout.

      If this continues, I think they have a pretty good chance. As far as I know, pronghorn are never fed, but they are on the elk refuge (or at least they were). I don’t know if they will eat the alfalfa pellets they feed the elk there.

      • avatar Jeff says:

        As long as the valley floor stays relatively snow free (as it currently is) most will survive. Many of the south facing hillsides offer low snowpack with available browse. They will eat alfalfa in a field, I’m not sure if they will or have eaten the pellets before.

        • avatar Ida Lupine says:

          I was wondering, here’s hoping they’ll do well. The less human interference wildlife gets, the better off they’ll be.

  2. avatar WyoWolfFan says:

    If they eat the pellets they should be fine.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      WyoWolfFan,

      Perhaps, but pronghorn don’t do well in deep snow even with food, and will they eat the pellets? Do alfalfa pellets nourish pronghorn?

      I don’t know the answer to either.

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