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Open Spaces

A Talk on the Wild Side.

Bringing Sonoran Pronghorn Back from the Brink

Captive breeding is a wildlife management tool of last resort, and it's not an action any wildlife manager chooses lightly or often. It can be difficult, expensive, and rife with risk. But when so few animals are left, we and our conservation partners must do whatever it takes to prevent extinction.

That's why we've developed the captive-breeding program for the Sonoran pronghorn.

It began over the winter of 2003-2004 when seven of the remaining animals were captured and placed in a specially constructed, one-square-mile pen on Cabeza Prieta Refuge.

In the captive-breeding pen, one carefully selected buck breeds with all of the herd's does. Breeding bucks are rotated to ensure as much genetic diversity as possible.

Jim Atkinson has been the Sonoran pronghorn recovery coordinator since 2008.

In the future, Atkinson said, breeding bucks may be brought in from one of the Mexican populations "to mix up the genetics and ensure the population stays robust."

pronghornA Sonoran Pronghorn doe. (Photo: USFWS)

But, he added, "We're not going to be in the captive-breeding business forever. The whole goal of our efforts right now is to put a floor under this herd and keep it from cratering again and again. For now, we can focus on restoring the herd and stabilizing it for the long haul." Other habitat enhancement efforts are essential elements of a broader effort to recover the pronghorn.

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Happy 235th America!

Bald eagle in Flight
Bald eagle soaring in flight from the USFWS Pacific Region Download.

We hope our series on climate change gave you a better understanding about how climate impacts nature across the country.  While that series is now over, the Open Spaces blog has just begun!  Visit often for new stories about what we’re doing in the Service to conserve and protect wildlife and their habitats.

In honor of our nation’s birthday, we dedicate today’s post to an American icon and one of our greatest conservation success stories in the Service: the bald eagle.  In our nation’s history, the eagle has always been a shining symbol of freedom and strength, but the story of this majestic bird has not always been as bright.

A little more than a half-century ago, the bald eagle was facing extinction.  Widespread use of DDT, loss of natural habitat, and overhunting were major factors contributing to a massive population decline of the eagle.  In 1967 it was declared an endangered species, and shortly after, the EPA banned the use of DDT. Successful efforts to restore eagle habitats and restrict hunting allowed populations of the birds to steadily increase, and on August 9th, 2007 the bald eagle was officially delisted and declared recovered, healthy and growing.

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