During the winter months one may see herds of pronghorn grazing on stubble or hay fields. Their sandy-coloured body provides camouflage on the barren fields, enough so, if they remain still one might miss seeing them altogether.
Pronghorn are often referred to as an antelope. Their scientific name (title above) translates to “American Antelope Goat”. In fact, pronghorn are more deer-like and are the only animals having branched horns rather than antlers. Their name “pronghorn” comes from the odd shape of their horns – forward facing prongs. In late fall or during winter the prongs break off and new ones grow in place of the old.
These rather odd looking animals are well adapted to life on the plains. They are the fastest land mammal in North America, able to reach speeds of 95 km hour. This is thanks to their large heart, windpipe and lungs which allow more oxygen to flow. It also means they have the endurance to run longer distances. However, they are not jumpers like deer, instead going under fences, sometimes at high speed. It is suggested the past pronghorn evolved its ability to run to escape from predators such as the American Cheetah (extinct). They have 13 distinct gaits. Their large protruding eyes set further back on the head allow them to spot a predator up to 6 km away.
Today the coyote is the pronghorn’s main predator. Fencing of grasslands has also had an effect on their numbers. Some pronghorn prefer to live on their own, roaming and feeding of grasses and shrubs. Many stay in small groups during summer and large herds in winter. They are active both day and night and tend to balance their time between napping and eating.
Females will have a single fawn first and twins thereafter. Females are smaller in weight 34-48 kg (75-106lbs) and males run from 40-65kg (88-143lbs). Both males and females tend to be the same height, standing between 81-104 cms (32-41”).
In Canada, pronghorn reside in southern SK and Alberta, and were once numerous over the entire Great Plains. Next time you see one of these odd-looking critters, remember they are among the elite of nature’s speed machines of North America.
Coyotes are the main predator of the pronghorn.