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Nevada Traps Antelope for Transplant to Central Part of State

February 16, 2008

From the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW):

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) volunteers watched as the helicopter flew over the low ridge in front of them herding a group of antelope closer. Following the sharp report from the netgun, a bright orange net flew from the helicopter engaging some of the antelope below. The trucks the volunteers were in plowed through the snow as they headed to the entangled animals. Upon reaching the antelope, the volunteers began the process of preparing the animals for the long trip ahead.

The capture crew from Pathfinder firing a net over a group of antelope during a recent relocatoin project.

With fingers numbed from the cold, they first subdued and then blindfolded the animals to quiet them down. Then as some volunteers held the animals still, others began untangling them from the nets. Once untangled, the bucks were ear tagged and released, while the does and fawns were hobbled and carefully loaded onto sawdust and tarps in the back of the trucks and taken to the processing center back at the trailer.

“These volunteers and NDOW employees are outstanding,” says Ken Gray, NDOW Game Biologist. “Without the volunteers, there is no way we could perform this capture in just two days.”

According to Gray the capture project, which took place in western Elko County, has three objectives. First to reduce the number of antelope on the winter range since the forage has been diminished due to wildfires over the last few years. Gray explains that this is the third year of removing and transplanting antelope from Elko County and without the removal of does and fawns, the herd would have grown significantly beyond the carrying capacity of their winter ranges.

Second, the antelope that are removed will be used to augment antelope further south in Garden Valley and Coal Valley which are located in central Nevada. These are areas where there is good habitat but few animals. By moving pronghorns into the area, they fill an empty niche and should provide viewing and hunting opportunities for Nevadans.

Finally, some of the animals will have radio collars attached and released where they were captured to help determine where they travel throughout the year. These are GPS collars that will automatically release after 14 months, and when the information is downloaded into a computer, will provide daily data on where the animals were located throughout the time they had the collars attached.

NDOW Biologists Shawn Espinosa and Mike Podborny carry an antelope to a waiting truck for transport to the processing area before the long trip to central Nevada.

“This will provide valuable information that will help NDOW better manage this herd,” explains Gray. “It will also help us determine what areas we need to concentrate our limited resources in restoring habitat destroyed by wildfire.”

With almost 50 volunteers and around 30 agency personnel, 257 animals were captured. 186 were transported and released, 7 were radio-collared and released on site and 48 bucks were ear-tagged and released on site.

Once in the processing area, the antelope are aged, body condition is determined, some have blood drawn (to test for disease) and ear tags are attached. They are then loaded into trailers where they wait for the long drive south.

“It’s exciting,” Gray says with a smile on his face. “Just look at them, whether this is their first time or they are old time biologists, they all have a grin on their face.”

For those who would like to volunteer to help with any number of wildlife related projects, go to www.ndow.org and then select the “Volunteer” tab at the right of the screen. Or you can call your local Nevada Department of Wildlife office.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. For more information, visit www.ndow.org.

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