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Relocation takes New Mexico pronghorn to Arizona

Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press.

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish conservation officers, Megan Morales-Otero, left, and Rebecca Bustamante help to restrain a pronghorn for medical treatment and tagging after its capture near Cimarron, New Mexico, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014. The wild pronghorn were taken from the private ranch land as part of a relocation effort to augment pronghorn populations in southern New Mexico and Arizona. (AP Photo/New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Rachel Shockley)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Dozens of biologists and wildlife managers from New Mexico and Arizona have been working to capture and relocate some 200 pronghorn that have been damaging cropland in northeastern New Mexico.

Thursday marked the third day of the effort, a delicate dance that involves a helicopter, strategically placed fencing and volunteers on foot who help push the anxious animals toward a corral covered with tarps.

The first group to be captured was bold, said Rachel Shockley, a spokeswoman with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The group's leader, a female, kept testing the fences and the line of approaching volunteers. The other pronghorns followed her lead.

"It's like you see with other animals, like sparrows or swallows, they move together in a beautiful pattern," Shockley said. "That's how the pronghorn relate to each other. They're very graceful, and they move together as if they were an organic unit."

More than three dozen of the animals rounded up earlier this week were taken to Arizona and released as part of a trade that will allow that state to start rebuilding its dwindling pronghorn herds.

In return, New Mexico will get 60 Gould's turkeys from Arizona in the next two to three years.

Arizona wildlife managers helped with the pronghorn, which look like antelopes but are a distinct species, capture to gain experience. New Mexico is one of the most well-versed states when it comes to working with pronghorn, officials said.

"They're a pretty hard species to work with because they're pretty high-strung and trapping and relocating them is very difficult," Shockley said.

In New Mexico, managers have relocated about 75 of the pronghorn from the Cimarron area to a location near Fort Stanton. On Thursday, they were working to trap and deliver another 75 to the Macho area northwest of Roswell.

Thanks to habitat improvements, officials said the Macho area has the potential to allow pronghorn to range over 1 million acres.

Arizona officials have also modified fencing, refurbished water catchments and cleared invasive mesquite and juniper to establish better habitat for the pronghorn released Wednesday in the Elgin area and the San Raphael Valley.

After being corralled, all of the pronghorn were blindfolded while biologists took blood and gave them antibiotics and sedatives to help calm them. Some that showed spikes in their temperatures were bathed in ice.

They were also outfitted with radio collars so they can be tracked by researchers from New Mexico Game and Fish Department and Texas Tech University. Researchers want to learn more about pronghorn movements and the survival rates of fawns in their new habitat as well as the overall success of relocation.


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