IT TAKES A LONG TIME TO GET THIS FAST.
Commonly referred to as the pronghorn antelope, the pronghorn is not actually an antelope! Sometimes referred to as the prongbuck, the pronghorn is not a deer! And while its scientific name is Antilocapra americana, meaning “American antelope goat,” the pronghorn is not a goat either! You might be surprised but as the last surviving member of the Antilocapridae family, the closest relatives to the pronghorn are the giraffe and okapi of Africa!!
The pronghorn is the fastest land animal in the western hemisphere and second-fasted land animal in the world – after the cheetah! Pronghorns can reach speeds of up to nearly 100 km/hr in short bursts and maintain speeds up to 70 km/hr over longer distances. While the cheetah cannot retain its top speed for more than a couple minutes, it is highly plausible that the pronghorn would outrun its cheetah competitor in an endurance race!
As you can imagine, pronghorn have no problem outrunning their predators, but there are two threats that they cannot elude; habitat loss and fences. As the Prairies become increasingly more developed, human activity remains their greatest threat. While pronghorn can jump, they tend to choose not to, crawling under any fencing (usually barbed-wired) that they come across. In doing so, the pronghorn become entangled; often leaving themselves injured and sometimes trapped.
What can we do to help this unique and fascinating species? We can start with installing wildlife-friendly fencing. This can be as simple as adjusting fence design and placement in order to prevent injury to wild animals. If you are a landowner, take a look at the Ministry of Environment’s guide to Wildlife Friendly Fences here. If you are not a landowner but want to become involved, check for volunteer opportunities within your community. For Saskatoon and area residents, you can visit Meewasin’s Facebook Event page for upcoming sessions.
While fence removal programs and wildlife-friendly fencing are great ways to adapt human practices to better coexist with the wildlife we share the landscapes with, it is also critical for us to work to protect habitats by keeping them intact. We should be striving to protect and keep our remaining natural ecosystems wild, so that all species who call these lands home, like the pronghorn, have the spaces they need to survive and thrive!