For the first time, pronghorn hunting will be allowed in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area north of Fort Collins. Six doe pronghorn permits will be offered by lottery until the end of February. Officials estimate there are over 3,000 pronghorn in the area.
“It’s indicative of a pronghorn population that’s quite a bit over what they [Colorado Department of Wildlife] would like to see in that area, so they are trying to find ways to reduce the pronghorn herd,” said Red Mountain District Manager Travis Rollins. “They have been getting a lot of complains from ranchers and local farmers in that area with crop damage and a variety of things.”
Native to North America, pronghorn can run 60 miles per hour. They are also very unusual - they are the only living member of their own family, the Antilocapridae. In other words the pronghorn has its own family, genus, and of course species. According to Prairie Public Media, “Historically pronghorn may have been as abundant as bison on the plains of North America. Some estimates put their population before European settlement at around 30-40 million. However, like the bison, their populations plummeted with settlement.”
The number of permits was determined by the recommendations from terrestrial biologists.
“...they recommend the number of tags that they would like for us to offer. It’s based on herd size of different animals and statistics they feel like that area can hold,” Rollins said.
“We kind of balance their recommendation with our other priorities like hiking, mountain biking and horse riding. We offer a very limited quality hunting experience instead of just anyone who has a [hunting] license can just go….we didn’t feel comfortable to open it up to just anyone who wants to come.”
In total, 19 special access hunting permits will be issued for deer and elk in addition to the pronghorn. Without them, Rollins said, people can’t hunt in either the Red Mountain Open Space or Soapstone Prairie Natural Area.
Those few hunters who get a permit will have to attend a required class, going over restricted places, including the archeological sites on both Red Mountain and Soapstone Prairie.
The pronghorn hunt will take place in late 2016 and early 2017, during Soapstone Prairie’s annual winter closure.