Researchers studying the decline of the pronghorn population in West Texas will wait until at least next year to relocate more of the animals to the area because of the ongoing drought.
“We will not make any headway until that drought is reversed,” said Louis Harveson, director of the Borderlands Research Institute for Natural Resource Management at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. The institute is working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to study the drop.
Researchers had hoped that studying pronghorn transplanted last spring from the Panhandle — where there’s a thriving population — would both bolster the population and provide some clues about what was wrong among West Texas pronghorn.
But a year of harsh conditions including freezes, drought, extreme heat and wildfires took a toll on the research. Harveson said once rains to return to the area, researchers are hopeful they can bring around 500 of the animals to the area.
Pronghorn have a body type somewhat like a deer, with distinctive white stripes on their faces and necks and white markings that come halfway up their sides.
In the mid-1980s, West Texas had about 17,000 of the animals, but since then the population has mostly been on the decline to a 30-year low of 3,745 animals recorded last year. Researchers say that while the animals have been affected by drought at times, that alone can’t explain the decline.