Sunday, May 1, 2011

A stormy spring

As far as snowfall in the Rocky Mountains goes, this has been a weird winter turning into a fluky spring. Southern Colorado and New Mexico are way below their typical snowfall levels and wildfire season is already kicking into gear. Meanwhile, spring storms are resulting in an above-average snow pack reaching from northern Colorado up into northern Montana. That's good for backcountry skiing, which has been keeping me entertained in western Colorado, but it's turning into a recipe for severe flooding in some areas.

What does this mean for wildlife life the pronghorn that are getting ready to migrate to their summer ranges and give birth to their fawns? The promise of warmer weather and green grass offers a chance to start replacing the fat that was burned trying to survive the winter, but cold, wet spring storms threaten animals whose energy reserves are depleted. Wildlife managers in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have reported high winterkill amongh deer, elk, moose and pronghorn as a result of "a harsh season of unusually heavy snows and sustained cold in the Northern Rockies," according to Reuters. Pronghorn were hit the hardest in eastern Montana.

Still, we can expect the hardiest prongies, the ones that survive the snowy winter and cold spring, to start giving birth to their fawns later this month. Though I'd rather see fawns out cavorting in the sagebrush rather than cooped up in captivity, I can't help but smile at this photo of two peninsular pronghorn fawns that were born at the Los Angeles Zoo on March 1. These little guys belong to a subspecies of our pronghorn that lives on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico.

Joe and I would like to thank Jeffrey Jacquet, Dr. Jeff Tester, the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources and the David Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future for hosting our recent Pronghorn Passage presentation at Cornell University. And thanks to all the students who came to our talk and lunchtime conversation.

Plus, there is a shout out to Pronghorn Passage in the latest issue of High Country News!

The pronghorn with the Easter basket lives in the Natural Resources building at Cornell University.