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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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TPWD Searching for Pronghorn Poachers in Panhandle  

Featured, Lifestyle

Pronghorn looking into the distance. | Image by FRANKHILDEBRAND

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Between Friday, Sept. 24 and Sunday, Sept. 26, game wardens with Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) recovered the carcasses of five Texas pronghorns. The animals were found with the head and horns removed, indicating that the poachers were seeking trophies from one of the most unique animals in Texas.   

Despite looking like an antelope and often being called a goat, the Texas Pronghorn is not related to either. It has no living relatives being the only species in its family.  

Many animals have antlers that are shed and regrown every year. Pronghorn are the only animal in the world that sheds its horns.

It is also the only animal with branching horns and is the fastest mammal in North America, possessing the ability to run at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and sustained speeds of 30 miles per hour for significant lengths of time.   

Today, Texas Pronghorn are confined mainly to the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle regions. They are estimated to number 12,000 in Texas. Populations have been increasing since hitting a low in 2009 due to relocation efforts and breeding programs. 

Hunting of pronghorn is legal in Texas, but hunters must obtain a permit through TPWD. Only a finite number of permits are available and are restricted based on survey results conducted annually.

There are no public lands for hunting pronghorn in the state. Landowners can lease land for hunts through TPWD.  

Poaching of pronghorn in Texas is a serious problem that can impact the health of herds. Pronghorn herds are carefully monitored to ensure the health and mobility of animals. Texas State Game Warden Shane Lewis said that pronghorn numbers are lower this year than in previous years.  

“These are not hunters; these are criminals that committed these acts,” Lewis said. “Hunters have a specific term of ethics, and hunters are true conservationists. The waste of these animals makes this crime even more heinous.”  

Under Texas law, poaching can result in charges ranging from a minor misdemeanor to a state jail felony. Lewis said that the poaching of pronghorn in this case likely could result in the individuals responsible being charged with five separate felonies. Texas has specific laws that address the waste of an animal, which can result in enhanced criminal charges.  

“We do have a high success rate solving severe crimes like this, but we always need the public’s help,” Lewis said. “Anyone with any information out there who can help capture or arrest of these individuals is very helpful.”   

Lewis said those game wardens collected a considerable amount of evidence at the scene, including DNA evidence, but have not identified any suspects at this time. He added that the pronghorn were likely taken for a private collection rather than for profit, making it more challenging to identify and apprehend those responsible. 

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