Animal Life in the Yosemite
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PRONGHORN ANTELOPE. Antilocapra americana americana Ord

The American Antelope, or Pronghorn, was, under original conditions, an inhabitant of the plains country at both ends of the Yosemite section. Edward Bosqui in his Memoirs (1904, p. 62) states that in December, 1850, he went with a party of freighters from Stockton to Mariposa, and that "as we [he] approached the foothills [near the present town of Snelling] game became more plentiful. At times we saw bands of elk, deer, and antelope in such numbers that they actually darkened the plains for miles and looked in the distance like great herds of cattle." Another early traveler, W. L. Manly (Death Valley in '49) tells of a trip up the Merced River to the crossing of the Stockton-Mariposa road [at Snelling] and of the numbers of antelope which were scattered over the plain at the time.

In general form the Pronghorn is deer-like. The head of the male is surmounted by a pair of upright flattened blackish horns, each with a single forward-pointing prong; the females have similar but smaller horns. On the rump is a large patch of long white hairs that can be raised at will, as a 'flag' to attract the attention of others of its kind. The body coloration above is uniform pale sandy brown, with patches of white on sides of face and chin, and two patches on throat the whole under surface of the body is white. In size the antelope about equals a small deer. The height at the shoulder is about 33 inches, the weight of an adult about 100 pounds.

The Pronghorn was an animal of open plains country such as is found widely in the San Joaquin Valley and in the Great Basin. It never occurred far into the foothill districts. Its sustenance was gained from grasses and small plants. For safety it depended upon its running ability, and in escaping from its natural enemies this was sufficient.

With the coming of the white man, possessed of firearms, the fortunes of the antelope declined. Antelope were shot extensively for food and probably also for sport. Miners coming down from the foothills killed antelope for meat, especially when they could not obtain elk. There was a rapid decrease in the numbers of the animals soon after the country began to fill up with settlers. The antelope, adjusted as a species to small annual toll, did not reproduce at a rate sufficiently rapid to make up the losses inflicted by shooting. Even if these matters had been adjusted, however, it is doubtful whether the antelope could have long persisted in view of the agricultural developments which have taken place over nearly all of their range.

Mr. G. B. Neighbor, a long-time resident of Snelling, told us in 1915 that the last antelope he had known of in the vicinity were seen in 1880, and that they had never been abundant there in his time (since about 1874). One man who had lived at Snelling all his life (since about 1880) said that the antelope had all gone before he became old enough to remember; but that his father, who had resided at the place before 1880, had told him that there used to be numbers of the animals there.

When Mr. Dixon visited the vicinity of Mono Lake in 1916 he was told that prior to 1910 one lone antelope had frequented the flat near the railroad along the eastern side of Mono Lake; but nothing had been seen of the animal after that year.


Animal Life in the Yosemite
©1924, University of California Press
Museum of Vertebrate Zoology

grinnell/mammals77.htm — 19-Jan-2006