Pronghorn antelope in the Sonoita-Elgin area.

A recent survey of the pronghorn antelope herd in Sonoita-Elgin counted 273 animals, an increase of nearly 8 percent from 2020, the Arizona Game and Fish Department said.

The 2021 count was conducted July 17 by AZGFD staff and volunteers, as well as members of the Arizona Antelope Foundation (AAF).

There were 81 pronghorn in the area in 2012, when the Arizona Antelope Foundation was awarded a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant for grasslands restoration projects there.

The grasslands restoration efforts included a combination of mesquite removal and prescribed burns. Water improvements, predator control and antelope translocations to the area were also used to help bolster the pronghorn population.

In addition, area landowners allowed for 55 miles of barbed wire fence modifications that opened up 100,500 acres of habitat, the AZGFD said. Those modifications involving removal of the bottom strand of fencing and replacing it with a smooth wire placed 18 inches off the ground. 

According to AZGFD, pronghorn antelope are the fastest land animal in North America, capable of running up to 60 miles per hour. However, they are hesitant to jump over objects.

The fence modifications enabled the pronghorns to go under fences and move more freely throughout the area, the agency said.

Only 77 pronghorn antelope were seen in the Sonoita-Elgin area in 2013. In January 2014, 41 animals were released there after being transported from New Mexico. After that, the annual herd count saw its numbers jump grow to 264 in 2015 and 318 in 2016.

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