Environment

Pronghorn Facts: Animals of North America

The pronghorn is the second fastest land mammal in the world, after the cheetah

Physical Description

The pronghorn is a North American mammal more closely related to the giraffe than to similarly appearing true antelopes. The Pronghorn has a short tail, and its fur is reddish brown or darker brown, with parts of its upper lip, eyes, and snort being grayish-black, according to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The pronghorn has white markings on its chin, neck, and underbelly, in addition to long hairs on its rump. Both sexes have split horns that look like "prongs", hence the name. The male horns are 10 to 12 inches in length, but the female pronghorn has much shorter ones. At full maturity, its weight is 90 to 150 pounds, it shoulder height 87 centimeters, and its length from head to tail is 141 centimeters.

Diet

As an herbivore, the pronghorn eats grasses, forbs, sagebrush, prairie plants, cacti, bull clover, and sour dock . It can either graze or browse depending on the season and food availability, according to research by the University of Wisconsin's Natural Resources Department. It seldom takes water as it derives a fair share of moisture from its diet. The pronghorn's peak feeding hours, according to ARKive initiative, are around sunrise and sunset. It also chews it cuds when resting to aid in digestion.

Habitat and Range

The Pronghorn is only found in North America, in a range that stretches from Southern Canada to Northern Mexico. In the U.S., the pronghorn lives in the states of Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, North and South Dakota. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) 2008 Red List report, the pronghorn is a species of "Least Concern" among threatened species. Current population trends are stable, with total populations being estimated at around 700,000. The greatest threats are towards the rare Sonoran pronghorn species, due to human activities resulting in habitat fragmentation, illegal hunting of them (mainly in Mexico), and infrastructure construction upon their habitats.

Behavior

By nature, the pronghorn is nervy, and even a slight startle will send it scampering, even when feeding. It's also a speedy creature, and can clock up to 60 miles an hour when being pursued by such predators as coyotes or bobcats. The proghorn is the fastest animals in North America, according to Conserve Nature, with only the cheetah being faster than it globally. The Pronghorn is also a proficient long distance runner, and it can run for miles at half its top speed. The pronghorn's large, protruding eyes can visualize movements up to 4 miles away. If it spots a predator, it raises its white, patchy, rump hairs, an action which alerts other pronghorns of potential danger.

Reproduction

To attract a mate for reproduction, a pronghorn has scent glands that emit pheromones. The glands are on either side of the jaw, or on the rump above the tail, according to Animal Diversity. Before mating, a male approaches the female from behind, and shakes its head to emit the pheromones. The male may also start to snort and wheeze as gets an erection and begins to copulate. Sometimes, when males fight for a female pronghorn the fights are brutal, and only the most dominant one gets the chance to mate. After mating, the gestation period takes on average 8 months, running through the whole of the winter season. Females then give birth in spring, according to NWF. In one birth a female pronghorn may give birth to twins. A pronghorn in the wild can live 7 to 10 years, and in captivity up to 11 years.

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