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“Where the deer and the antelope play” … where will they play?

Driving east on Woodmen or Highway 24, it’s fairly common to spot a pronghorn or two. It’s the stuff they wrote about in the song, “Home on the Range.” But there is a growing concern that the deer and the antelope (actually pronghorns) will no longer have anywhere to “play” because of development on the eastern plains.Michael Seraphin, public information officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife southeast region, said it is true there are concerns with how the rapid expansion of areas like Falcon are pushing the animals out of their natural habitat. But it’s not the first time, he said. “The growth in Falcon, although new to the Falcon area, is not a new problem for pronghorn in El Paso County because historically the pronghorn roamed throughout the entire area, including what is now downtown Colorado Springs at one time,” Seraphin said. When areas begin to develop, the pronghorn will naturally move east until they find open plains again, he said.The animals generally adapt to this process because development in most areas is fairly gradual, and the pronghorn may not feel the immediate effects, Seraphin said. “The first effect of the earth moving or scraping of the land is that usually the first plants that grow up under areas that have been disturbed are actually the species of plants that we refer to as weeds, but (are what) pronghorn (like to) eat,” he said. “In the very short term, there is a bump in available foliage for them because the earth gets disturbed and the weeds grow in and, in fact, that’s what the pronghorn prefer.”He said the long-term effects of losing their wide-open spaces is harder on the pronghorns and can eventually impact their overall population.The DOW regulates the number of pronghorn within the state of Colorado rather than regulating in individual counties. “We manage pronghorn in Colorado on more of a large-scale picture, a statewide picture,” he said. “We estimate in the state there are approximately 60,000 pronghorn … and that’s more than there were 40 years ago. That’s because we regulate the amount of animals that are hunted each year.”Seraphin said the DOW has devised a temporary solution for the pronghorns’ diminishing habitat. “Because there will not continue to be enough available habitat for them, we have increased the number of hunting licenses that we are going to issue this year, as a temporary thing, because some of those animals would perish if not harvested,” he said.Others think there are alternative solutions.”The most logical solution, using this situation as an example, whenever we look at our natural resources, our water, our soils, everything, we realize that there is a point where there begins to be damaged,” said Linda Cope, co-founder of Wild Forever, a wildlife rehabilitation organization. “We need to take that into account, and we need to make provisions for it. It’s the same with wildlife.”Cope doesn’t deny that development is necessary, but she said coexistence is the key to solving this situation. “Why can’t developers come up with master plans looking at migration corridors and … certain habitats?” she asked. “And when they do development in that area (make sure) the recommendations of the Division of Wildlife are followed so the animal can be a part of our lives, survive and thrive and still have some of its natural habitat.”Cope said she also is of the understanding that El Paso County requires developers to obtain a report from the DOW about how their development will affect the area; she also said she doesn’t believe the developers are required to follow DOW recommendations. The DOW reports with recommendations should be mandatory and taken seriously, she said.Carl Schueler, El Paso County long range planning division manager, said developers involved with major projects are required to do a wildlife impact report and submit it to the county and the DOW. The county can then choose to comment or not. “They typically do not comment,” he said, adding that the county does have DOW master plans in place showing low, medium and high levels of impact a development would have on wildlife. Developers can access those plans before building.For now, the pronghorn are thinning but still roaming near Falcon, but as development continues, they will most likely be heading east to find another home on the range.Fun facts about pronghorns

  • A unique animal, the pronghorn’s scientific name, Antilocapra Americana, means “American antelope goat.”
  • The deer-like pronghorn is neither antelope nor goat – it is the sole surviving member of an ancient family dating back 20 million years.
  • The pronghorn is the only animal in the world with branched horns (not antlers), and the only animal in the world to shed its horns, as if they were antlers.
  • The pronghorn is the fastest animal in the western hemisphere, running in 20-foot bounds at up to 60 miles per hour.

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