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At-Risk Pronghorn Make Other Species Vulnerable

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Monday, October 4, 2021   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Millions of pronghorn used to roam the West freely. But impediments such as roads and fences, as well as a changing climate, threaten the species' future.

A new web map explores the pronghorn's journey as it migrates across the grasslands of the West.

Andrew Jakes, regional wildlife biologist for the National Wildlife Federation, said pronghorn need a connected habitat to thrive, and he noted pronghorn are not the only ones that flourish from habitat connectivity.

"Having a healthy and resilient ecosystem equates to having healthy and resilient rural communities," Jakes explained. "It equates to having healthy water. It just equates to having really robust wildlife populations within these different ecosystems."

The website, known as a "StoryMap," is called "On the Move," and follows pronghorn migration from spring to winter. It was put together by the National Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy.

After falling nearly to extinction in the early 20th century, pronghorn numbers now are close to one million because of conservation efforts.

Kelsey Molloy, rangeland ecologist for The Nature Conservancy, said a suite of animals benefits from conservation of the grasslands.

"It's not just the pronghorn that benefit when we modify a fence," Molloy outlined. "Mule deer are benefiting from that, too. And when we make sure that a ranch stays intact, that means that grassland birds are benefiting, too. So, it's all connected."

Jakes contended it is useful to think about the landscape as a whole. He pointed out pronghorn and other wildlife on the move don't think about whether they're on public or private lands or in the United States or Canada.

"It's worth working with all these different entities to sustain this really important ecosystem," Jakes asserted.

Jakes emphasized grasslands are the most imperiled ecosystem in the world.


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