Jackson Hole Wildlife, Part 4: Pronghorn
August 19, 2019
One of our most popular blog series from last year, Jackson Hole Wildlife, returns this week with one Jackson’s most common animals: the antelope! You may see them out on the elk refuge, or you might be planning to hunt them later this year. However you’ve encountered them, let’s find out more about the antelope.
Latin name: Antilocapra americana
Technically, it’s not really an antelope, is it?
Well, you’re so smart, aren’t you? No, the animal found in Jackson Hole is actually a pronghorn (true antelope live in Africa, where they get eaten by Simba as part of the Circle of Life), but we like to call these popular North American ungulates antelope anyway.
How many of them are there?
Until recently, Wyoming had more pronghorn than people. Recently, possibly due to droughts and other factors, pronghorn numbers in Wyoming have been declining below about 360,000 animals.
How fast are they?
They’ve been clocked up to 65 mph. That’s faster than any land animal except the cheetah, which we do not have in Jackson Hole. On a related note, the pronghorn has been observed to have at least 13 distinct gaits. This tells us two things: one, the pronghorn is capable of covering a lot of ground at once, and two, someone’s job is to count pronghorn gaits.
What’s their mating ritual like?
Weird question, but okay. When courting a female in heat, a male pronghorn approaches her while softly vocalizing (we like to think he’s humming some sweet Marvin Gaye) and waving his head side to side, displaying his cheek patches. If the female is super into his cheek patches, she stays motionless, then sniffs his scent gland. If you want to know what happens next, go watch a nature documentary on Netflix.
How long do they live?
The lifespan of a pronghorn in the wild is 15 years.
Can I hunt them?
Yes! Wyoming has more pronghorn than the rest of the continent. According to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, harvest success often exceeds 85%. Still, there’s a limited quota, so find out here how to get a license.
What else should I know about them?
- They have large eyes with 320 degrees of vision.
- The first people to scientifically document pronghorn were the explorers Lewis and Clark. Clark described it as “verry actively made, [with] only a pair of hoofs to each foot, his brains on the back of his head, his Nostrals large, his eyes like a Sheep he is more like the Antilope or Gazelle of Africa than any other Species of Goat.”
- The pronghorn’s closest living relatives are the giraffe and the okapi, a bizarre-looking African animal that looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra.
Looking to get a glimpse of pronghorn on the elk refuge? There’s no better place to stay than Flat Creek Inn, Jackson’s closest lodgings to Grand Teton National Park.