WCS North America

Pronghorn Field Program

Years of WCS research conducted in Wyoming in partnership with Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) documented a fascinating phenomenon:  all of the Park's pronghorn were ultimately found to depend on a single migration corridor more than 150 miles long to move between GTNP and winter range located to the south in the Green River valley in western Wyoming.  This corridor, named the ‘Path of the Pronghorn’ by WCS, has been active for more than 6,000 years and is one of the longest large mammal migration corridors in North America and the longest remaining in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).  Only 25% of the historical migration corridors in the GYE remain active, the rest have been severed by rural sprawl and highways.  If the Path of the Pronghorn suffers this same fate, pronghorn will go extinct in Grand Teton National Park.  WCS is using on the ground research, partnership building, and outreach to ensure that this does not happen.

To date, WCS efforts to protect this migration corridor and the Grand Teton pronghorns have been successful.  Most notably, in 2008, the Path of the Pronghorn became the first federally designated migration corridor.  While providing important protection for the Path of the Pronghorn, the migration is still threatened by loss of winter range as a result of energy development, rural sprawl, and highways.  To overcome these threats, WCS is investigating impacts that these three threats pose to pronghorn migration and survival and developing mitigation strategies.  In addition, WCS is studying how the re-colonization of wolves in Grand Teton National Park has altered the rate of coyote predation on pronghorn fawns.  We continue to monitor the role of restored predator-prey interaction in fawn survival.

Goals

WCS is working to obtain the following management outcomes:

  • Help the Bureau of Land Management to guide management of energy development in such as way that conserves large and interconnected areas of intact sagebrush steppe habitat.
  • Encourage federal, state, and county governments to establish a comprehensive plan that encourages only land-use practices compatible with pronghorn migration along the Path of the Pronghorn.
  • Maintain an enduring pronghorn population in Grand Teton National Park.
  • Ensure that the Upper Green River Valley continues to provide essential winter range for pronghorn and tens of thousands of other ungulates.
  • Establish permanent protection for the Path of the Pronghorn.

Activities

Pronghorn migration along the Path of the Pronghorn

WCS researchers are using global positioning system technology and geospatial analysis to monitor pronghorn during their semi-annual migration between Grand Teton National Park and the upper Green River valley in western Wyoming. Using this information WCS is working with a broad range of stakeholders to minimize threats to this migration and increase pronghorn survival. Read More >>

Energy Development Impacts on Pronghorn

The upper Green River valley provides some of the most essential winter range for pronghorn elk and mule deer in Greater Yellowstone and holds some of the largest natural gas deposits.  WCS biologists are studying the biological costs of disturbance from increased energy development on pronghorn wintering grounds and obtaining fine-scale information about habitat fragmentation and the different pathways utilized by these animals to move from summer grounds in Grand Teton National Park to wintering grounds in the Red Desert region south of Pinedale Wyoming.  WCS is using this information to help state agencies and industry identify and implement best practices for gas development to ensure pronghorn remain healthy and viable for the long-term in this region.

Accomplishments

WCS and the National Park Service identified one of the longest ungulate migration routes in the lower 48 states – the Path of the Pronghorn (POP) in western Wyoming. Our relationships and collaborations in this area also led POP to become the first federally-protected wildlife migration corridor.

Latest Publications

All Yellowstone and Northern Rockies Publications >>

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Contact

WCS North America Program
212 South Wallace Avenue, Suite 101 Bozeman, MT, 59715 USA
(406) 522-9333

Key Staff

Jon Beckmann
Connectivity Initiative Coordinator
Renee Seidler
Pronghorn Field Leader
All Northern Rockies Staff >>