Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

International Pronghorn Study Expanding

State, federal and provincinal researchers are expanding an
international study of pronghorn antelope migration and habitat
needs by placing radio collars on up to 50 additional animals.

The animals are being captured with the help of a contracted
helicopter net crew. Biologists then attach sleek, yet-high-tech
collars on the animals. The collars include Global Positioning
System (GPS) devices that receive signals every two hours, so
researchers can keep track of targeted herds over time, said FWP
Wildlife Biologist Kelvin Johnson of Glasgow.

This is the second year of the study, which is being run through
a research advisory board at the University of Calgary, Alberta.
Among other entities, major players in the project include the
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Bureau
of Land Management, the agencies’ provincial counterparts in
Alberta and Saskatchewan, World Wildlife Fund, University of
Montana, Alberta Conservation Association, and several Canadian
energy companies.

In early 2008, 22 pronghorn antelope does were captured
northeast of Malta, and each received one of the specialized radio
collars before being released. Now, 20 more animals are being
captured, collared and released in the same winter range in
northern Phillips County, and another 20 animals are being targeted
in wintering herds near Glasgow and Nashua in northern Valley
County. An additional seven to 10 animals are soon expected to
receive radio collars in southern Saskatchewan.

The project is designed to remotely track pronghorn antelope
across parts of northern Montana and southern Canada and monitor
where they spend their time. The collars store GPS coordinates and
are programmed to fall off after a year. Biologists then collect
the collars, download the coordinates into a computer, and build a
map that shows the movements of each animal. Johnson said all of
the 22 collars that were attached to animals last year have been
recovered.

“The project is intended to assess how antelope populations
utilize this transboundary landscape, and the role that native
rangelands play in keeping these populations healthy and
connected,” explained Jeff Herbert, assistant administrator of
FWP’s Wildlife Division. “GPS satellite collars are used to
document important habitats and seasonal movement patterns, as well
as how antelope may react to various human development and natural
features across this region. This information is intended to help
resource managers work more effectively in their conservation
efforts and in partnership with private landowners.”

The Phillips County study area includes part of the Bowdoin gas
field, just one area where development has the potential to
fragment wildlife habitat and disrupt historical migration and
fawn-rearing patterns.

But University of Calgary doctorial candidate Andrew Jakes, one
of the leaders of the study, said the project is not focusing on
just oil and gas development, but on all types of human activity,
including agricultural practices and roads and highways.

Expanding the study area and adding more animals will help
researchers better understand how herds and habitat merge, as well
as how the animals react to disturbances. Among the other
attributes, Johnson said having such information should help
wildlife managers on both sides of the U.S. and Canadian borders
decide their antelope seasons and quotas.

“We want to take a proactive approach to defining what critical
habitat is, as well as pronghorn movement corridors across these
prairie landscapes,” Jakes explained. The study is expected to run
a total of four years.

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