Ungulate populations in desert environments are thought to be regulated by precipitation. Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) populations in Trans-Pecos, Texas, USA, experienced a 70% decline between 1977 and 2001. The causative factors associated with the decline are unknown but appear to be related to drought. We evaluated the relationships between pronghorn abundance and productivity and precipitation (i.e., raw precipitation, Palmer Drought indices) for the Trans-Pecos district of Texas from 1977 to 2004. Pronghorn productivity (range = 305–4,407) and abundance (range = 5,061–17,266) showed high variability. Precipitation was also highly variable, ranging from 18 cm to 57 cm. Pronghorn abundance was positively influenced by precipitation indices (R = 0.790, P < 0.001). The relationship between fawn production and raw precipitation (R = 0.869, P < 0.001) suggested that fawn production may be more closely related to immediate moisture conditions, whereas pronghorn abundance was more influenced by long-term population trends. Management plans for pronghorn populations in more arid regions should include drought contingencies including reduced stocking rates and harvest quotas.
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Vol. 71 • No. 3