Recent drought, spring storms take toll on antelope population

Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming. (Photo: Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Used with Permission)
Pronghorn antelope in Wyoming. (Photo: Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Friday proposed a reduction of antelope license quotas for the 2021 hunting season, citing drought conditions and the record-breaking 2021 spring blizzard, according to an April 16 WGFD press release.

The changes should be short-term, per WGFD wildlife managers, who said the reductions will help stabilize pronghorn populations and allow herds to “bounce back.”

Fluctuations in the number of pronghorn licenses Game and Fish offers is not uncommon, said Doug Brimeyer, WGFD deputy chief of wildlife.

In 2019, for example, WGFD increased the quota by 3,400 licenses; in 2020, the number was reduced by 6,675.

Brimeyer noted that when there are dry conditions and less food is available, that means less pronghorn.

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“Pronghorn population performance is tied to the availability of high-quality forage which includes seasonal use of grasses, forbs, and shrubs,” he said. “That forage availability is influenced by weather patterns which have been challenging for pronghorn the last two years.”

Brimeyer said he is optimistic that a conservative year of licenses will help pronghorn rebound, and quickly.

“If conditions are favorable, we could expect to see fawn ratios bump up,” he said. “That means we’re hopeful for good spring and summer moisture to support leader growth on shrubs and  native grasses.”

For the 2021 season, managers are recommending a reduction of 3,650 any-antelope licenses and 5,775 doe/fawn licenses, the release stated.

Game and Fish will monitor populations closely over the summer.

  • To view the full list of proposed reductions, click here.
  • For an interactive map identifying hunt areas, click here.
  • For more information on how these changes will impact hunters and landowners, click here.