On a late-September drive along the East Walker River Road, at the north end of Fletcher Valley, I came upon a herd of pronghorn strolling through the sagebrush. I quickly stopped the car, stayed in car, and whipped out the binoculars and telephoto lens. They looked at me, but did not run away. They continued their leisurely walk up an unnamed hill and over the ridge, in the general direction of The Elbow and the Bodie Hills, six miles to the west.
I counted 21 of them, but I think a few more had already crossed the ridge before I put down the camera for a closer look with binoculars.
These animals are part of what’s recognized as the Bodie Hills herd of pronghorn. The Nevada Department of Wildlife “2012-2013 Big Game Status” report notes: “This antelope herd is shared with California and utilizes upper elevation summer range in the Bodie Hills of California and winters primarily in Nevada. Because of the rain-shadow effect of the Sierra Nevada’s, the Nevada portion of winter range is often in poor condition. This can wreak havoc on fawn survival through the winter months. . . . Following good precipitation years, the population responds quite well with ample fawns contributing to a stable antelope herd.”
The “2013-2014 Big Game Status” report says, “In March of 2014, 10 pronghorn does were captured and fitted with satellite/telemetry receivers in the Rough Creek Aldridge Grade area. This was a collaborative project between the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to look at pronghorn distribution patterns and migration routes of the Bodie interstate herd. The follow up of this antelope herd will determine if fawns are being lost on summer range or on winter range.”
The “2015-2016 Big Game Status” report finds that 2015 was a better year for these animals: “The habitat located within these unit groups is in excellent condition because of the moisture received in fall 2015. . . . Precipitation in 2015 left the grasses and browse community in a productive state. This year’s fawn ratio should result in a stable population trend. At one time this herd numbered close to 200 animals. Consecutive years of low fawn recruitment have reduced the population to 100 animals. Future projects removing pinyon and juniper will allow for some limited expansion. Also creating corridors between California and Nevada will enable the herd to migrate easier from summer range to winter range. The population estimate for Bodie interstate herd is 110 animals.”
Pronghorn country: looking south from Aldrich Pass, across Fletcher Valley,
to the southeastern Bodie Hills.
Copyright © Tim Messick 2016. All rights reserved.
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Nice photos, Tim. I have also seen pronghorn (besides on the menu at Mono Inn) in the uppermost reaches of Cottonwood Canyon, about half way between Murphy Spring and Mt. Biedeman. (http://www.schweich.com/imagehtml/IMGP0644sm.html)
Thanks, Tom. The antelope do get around in the mostly treeless parts of Bodie Hills. I’ve seen them a couple miles east of Bodie and two miles south of Masonic Mountain. They’re always a joy to see.