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Tribal wildlife department brings back antelope


Pronghorn antelope get a lift after capture in Nevada before transport to the Colville Indian Reservation. - submitted photos

Wildlife staff from the Colville Tribes' Fish and Wildlife (CTFW) Department released 52 pronghorn antelope in the early morning hours last Thursday, a department press release announced Friday.

They were released on the southwest corner of the Colville Indian Reservation.

"The capture process went great, fairly smooth and without incident," said Kodi Jo Jaspers, Resource Protection biologist for CTFW. "The helicopter crew used net guns to capture pronghorn on the ground, and then anywhere from one to five animals were slung into base camp where they were processed.

"Processing included shots, blood draw for DNA and disease testing, body condition check and temperature monitoring."

Almost all animals were fitted with collars for tracking.

"There were several different herds of pronghorn the crew were able to select from, ensuring that all animals had reduced stress," she stated.

"It sure was an amazing experience," said Sam Rushing, wildlife biologist for CTFW. "We deployed 40 GPS/VHF transmitters on the adult pronghorn. The transmitters were deployed on adults and yearlings, but not the fawns."

The transmitters will help staff identify habitat usage, daily and seasonal migrations of the animals, and will notify staff if an animal dies. The collars will provide managers with location data and have a battery life of approximately four years.

"It's all about restoration," said Richard Whitney, wildlife manager for CTFW. "This is a primary goal of the wildlife program - to restore native and desired non-native species to the Colville Indian Reservation. Also, these animals won't directly compete with elk, deer or moose. There are slight overlaps in habitat use between mule deer and pronghorn, but their diets are slightly different."

A similar release on the Yakama Reservation in 2011 has resulted in an increased population, with about half remaining on the reservation, according to press reports.

Pronghorn antelope get a lift after capture in Nevada before transport to the Colville Indian Reservation. - submitted photos

The release area, primarily shrub-steppe habitat with draws and drainages that support riparian vegetation. Primary vegetation is bitterbrush, sagebrush (basin big sagebrush and three-tipped sagebrush) with undergrowth components of native perennial grasses and forbs. The shrub and grass species provides adequate high-quality forage for the pronghorn as well as thermal and hiding cover. The wildlife area also provides adequate water sources for the pronghorn.

"Anytime a wild creature can be reintroduced to its native habitat, that is a good thing," said Randall Friedlander, CTFW director.

The area where the animals were released was purchased by the Colville Tribal Wildlife Mitigation Project, and is primarily managed for the benefit of wildlife and their habitats. The land was purchased using funding supplied by Bonneville Power Administration to offset a portion of their wildlife mitigation obligation for Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph hydropower projects.

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