MT train kills 270 pronghorn antelope; 800 die on roads & tracks in rough winter

Blocked by snow and cattle fences, about 800 pronghorn antelope have been killed by trains and cars in Montana this year. One train killed 270.

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Yellowstone Pronghorn, Found in the Park’s North, Watch You Back

Pronghorn jumps

Pronghorn passes us on Specimen Ridge

You can only see pronghorn antelope in the northern part of Yellowstone National Park. That seems to be true with a lot of animals in the park, but it’s officially true with the pronghorn. In my trip I didn’t see any big herds, but got to meet a few charismatic individuals and see some small family groups once we were near Roosevelt.

What was striking about the animals was that they watched us with their huge dark eyes and even approached us. (A sign somebody may have fed them, perhaps?) We ran into one on Specimen Ridge. She kept walking down the trail towards us, eyes making contact all  the time. We chatted to her. She eventually veered to the side, but was comfortable close by. All the pronghorns we saw were engaged in the encounter, but not overly scared.

Friendly Pronghorn

Both sexes have horns, but only the boys’ horns sprout prongs or points. They’re native and endemic to the west (they’re from here and only here). They’re the only animal in the world to shed their horns each year, the National Parks Service says.

The most unfortunate thing about the pronghorn antelope another opportunity to tell you that you’ve gotten an animal’s name wrong. Just like the American buffalo isn’t really a buffalo, the pronghorn isn’t really an antelope under the current taxonomic regime, which requires antelopes have antlers that don’t shed.

The more serious problem is that the

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Yellowstone Without a Guide, but with Bear Spray

yellowstone bear

Step Away from the Bear

Yellowstone has so many animals you don’t even really need to hire a guide to find them, says one expert. But you will have to put some time and work into it.

“You don’t need a guide,” says Al Nash, parks spokesman. “But you probably need to spend more than one day.” Nash says the biggest mistake wildlife watchers make in Yellowstone is not giving themselves enough time. The park is bigger than you think and the animals aren’t going to always cooperate with a tight schedule.

The animals themselves have an elaborate schedule and sometimes seasonal territories. Lamar Valley is traditionally where wolf watchers go, but their pack size and territories are in constant motion. Earlier this year National Geographic had a package on the area’s Wolf Wars and featured a map of the local packs. Based on 2008 data, the biggest was Gibbons peak in the southeast. Just last week the last of the park’s famous Druid pack that hung around Lamar was shot dead on a ranch in Montana.

“A lot of people say they saw wolves,” but really only saw coyotes, he says. The coyotes here are size XL. “The wolf is a much larger animal. Think of a German Shepherd on steroids.”

Nash says, just check with a visitor center about what’s been seen where in the last few days. Badgers, big cats and moose are all pretty hard to spot, no matter how hard you try or

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Oz Outraged at Canned Hunt for Rare Antelope– Which Texas Does in Droves

photo courtesy of Cats 2007Australians this week were outraged when they realized the Taronga Zoo in Dubbo, NSW, is selling off blackbuck antelopes, which are endangered in their native India, to canned hunting ranches. Meanwhile, these kind of black buck hunts go on non-stop in Texas and nobody cares.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Bob McComb, owner of the Dongadale Deer Park and Stud, bought 24 blackbuck antelope from the zoo for between AU$160 and $300 (US$130 – $250). (Later the zoo admitted selling 84 animals to a bunch of these hunt clubs. Sure seems like the zoo was letting them breed to get cute babies to attract visitors.) The deal is he can only breed the ones he got from the zoo, but he’ll “hunt” their offspring. He’s confident he’ll be able to get approval to do it, then charge thousands of dollars per kill. Australians were suitably taken aback. They called for the zoo’s animal welfare chief to quit. And New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees said No, he wasn’t going to suddenly allow these widely-ridiculed hunting ranches–even though it’ll make it hard to corral conservatives on other issues. India sent Bollywood star Salman Khan to jail for shooting one of these lanky animals. The eight year court case may now be a movie. Wildlife preserves like the ABOHAR in Punjab are carefully coaxing their numbers up. Nature worshipping Bishnois protect them. Meanwhile, back on the ranch in Texas, canned hunting is a big business.

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