Pronghorn Reintroduction Update – Part 3 – By Leif Olsen

What kind of Pronghorn inhabited Southern California?  DNA analysis from the first specimen collected over 100 years ago near the Parker Dam showed a mixture of both americanus (American) and sonoriensis (Sonoran).  Just by this one result, the map of the historic range of the Sonoran Pronghorn has changed.  Previous theories of the historic range did not have the Sonoran Pronghorn this far north.  This is just one example of what the San Diego Chapter of SCI is contributing to the efforts to reintroduce Sonoran Pronghorn.

Currently, we are waiting on results of the analysis of other museum samples from those gathered throughout Baja, Southern and Central California.  This analysis is not without its challenges.  Many museum pieces of hide and bone were treated with chemicals that while preserving the sample make collecting usable DNA very difficult.  The staff of the University of Arizona is developing cutting edge techniques throughout this process to extract usable DNA.

We are not the only group waiting on the results.  Representatives from US Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, California Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Zoo, Los Angeles Zoo and others are all anxiously waiting to hear the results to begin the next phase of the plan.  That plan relies heavily on how well the Pronghorn from the December gather are doing in their new habitats, and the initial results are very favorable.

Of the twelve animals transferred to the Kofa National Wildlife refuge, already nine fawns have been counted!  A single buck was already sighted on the Yuma proving grounds and animals have been on the move from Organ Pipe National Monument.

One of the greatest success stories is found where this project originated.  The herd located at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge has gone from the brink of 21 animals in 2002 to the current count of over 160.

Everyone should be proud of what the San Diego Chapter has accomplished in a short time.  In addition to facilitating the collection of samples for DNA, the Chapter’s efforts have been pivotal in official Sonoran recovery plans now including locations in California.  This is a win-win for all of us.

Once more results are made available, the Chapter will host another meeting of various government agencies to map out a path forward and tour the Chuckwalla Bench location.  I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.

I have a request to make of our Chapter members: if you know of anyone who has material (mount, hide, etc.) from a Pronghorn collected in San Diego or Imperial County when the Pronghorn still roamed here, would you please let me know.  This could provide further samples for our DNA analyses.