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Pronghorn Populations Struggling in Face of Human Development

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Pronghorn Populations Struggling in Face of Human Development

They can jump, but it’s a learned trait.
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Deer, elk, and even moose have adapted to jump over low fences, but the simple barriers remain a seemingly insurmountable challenge for pronghorn. According to the Star-Tribune, researchers at the University of Wyoming are currently in the middle of a three-year study to determine why the state’s pronghorn population is dwindling. The problem is not restricted to Wyoming—states like Arizona are also seeing declines. Researchers are now looking into what they believe is the most likely cause: human development.

The fact that the pronghorn, one of North America’s fastest land animals, cannot jump over even a moderately-sized fence, may strike many as odd. Wildlife officials say it is simply a trait that the species never developed.

“People always want to know why they don’t just jump,” wildlife researcher Andrew Jakes told The Nature Conservancy. “They can jump, but it’s a learned trait. For eons, they just never had to adapt to jumping anything taller than sagebrush. They never lived in any other kind of terrain.”

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