Wyoming: Fewer Pronghorn & Fewer Hunting Licenses in 2021
Written by Andrew-Rossi on August 6, 2021
Wyoming hunters will find fewer opportunities to hunt pronghorn this year, as persistently poor weather adds more strains to struggling herds across the state.
WyoFile reports that there will be fewer pronghorn licenses in 2021. After a year of unfavorable weather, antelope aren’t as numerous as Wyoming Game and Fish would like.
By their own estimates, Wyoming Game and Fish believes there are 388,500 pronghorn in Wyoming. That’s 9% lower than the population goal of 429,200 – 40,700 fewer pronghorn.
The primary reason behind the decrease is Wyoming’s weather. First, 2020’s lack of summer rain made it a difficult winter for pronghorn, with a low over-winter survival for yearling bucks. Then the winter of 2020-2021 threw a cataclysm at the antelope. With milder winter temperatures, pronghorn moved to higher elevations. There they encountered deep snow that froze overnight and preventing them from foraging for food.
But this weather doesn’t only impact pronghorn in the short term. Such conditions led to bad foraging conditions, with less sage and forbs for the antelope to eat.
Because of declining numbers, there will be 9% fewer pronghorn licenses available for the 2021 hunting season.
Wyoming Game and Fish expects 42,646 hunters this year. Based on previous years, the department expects them to have an 86% success rate and spend an average of 3.9 days hunting per animal killed.
Despite the decreases in pronghorn numbers, it isn’t necessarily bad news. Biologists have seen numbers fluctuate like this before, and pronghorn populations have rebounded.
However, there is another problem that will continue to put pressure on Wyoming pronghorn: climate change.
Wyoming Game and Fish biologists review the pronghorn population objective for herds every five years. The statewide number hasn’t changed for some time. But that objective is dependent principally on habitat – which could face a long-term challenge due to climate change.
The department is ready to adapt to these conditions if needed. It all depends on the long-term forecast – for weather, for climate, and for pronghorn populations.