A new federal grant will give scientists a closer peek into secrets held by southwestern Montana’s pronghorn antelope.
The Madison Valley supports one of southwest Montana’s largest wintering populations of pronghorn antelope.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department spokesman, Greg Lemon, at least half of the region’s 2,400 pronghorn are seasonal migrants.
“As much as we know about them, about the animals, their ecology and how they use the landscape, we’re always learning new things, Lemon says. "This is going to be a great opportunity to fill in some of the gaps of what we know and don’t know about antelope in southwest Montana.”
Lemon’s referring to a new $300,000 grant announced Monday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
An Interior press release says the funds will allow Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ scientists to capture and radio collar 40 adult pronghorn. Those collars will then be linked to satellites to gather location and mortality data
“It’s going to help us understand, sort of, the ecology of antelope, where they move to and why they might be moving there, Lemon says. "And also understand what sort of barriers that might be in the way that might change how they move or adjust how they move or be barriers to their movement.”
It’s not known if the migratory segment of the Madison Valley antelope population travels into Yellowstone National Park, the Centennial Valley or into Idaho.
Scientists say understanding their seasonal ranges and migratory corridors will help land and wildlife managers make better decisions.
The press release says at least two years of data will be collected to delineate seasonal ranges and migratory corridors.
Interior Secretary Zinke says the funding is part of a bigger effort to improve the federal government’s collaboration with states to improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat.