Fawning season prompts refuge closures
It's fawning season for the endangered Sonoran pronghorn antelope and yes, you can tell them that they're pretty, you can tell them that they're smart, you can even tell them that they're really fun to be with.
But what officials at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge would really like the public to do is stay the heck away from them.
Beginning Sunday and lasting until July 15 about 600,000 acres of the 803,418-acre refuge will be closed to protect the highly sensitive pronghorns from stress while they have their babies.
John Morgart, Sonoran pronghorn recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the closure is needed because pronghorns are highly strung animals that respond to the presence of any human - even one in the distance - by running as far and as fast as they can. In fact, the Sonoran pronghorn is considered North America's fastest land animal.
Combine the stress of such hard running with the stress of being pregnant and a pronghorn under such conditions would likely lose its fawn and maybe die itself, Morgart said.
The closure's effect on the public is considered minor because most of the lands involved are within designated wilderness areas and don't allow motorized or mechanized use, officials said in a news release.
Specifically affected by the closure are two routes in the northwestern portion of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, including a portion of El Camino del Diablo, Tacna Road south of Interstate 8, Charlie Bell Road, and short sections of two roads crossing Bureau of Land Management-administered lands near Ajo.
The Wellton Road from I-8 to Tule Well and Christmas Pass will remain open. A map showing the affected roads is available by calling 1-520-387-4988.
North American Sonoran pronghorns have suffered in recent years from drought in the desert east of Yuma.
In January a U.S. and Mexican effort to bolster the Sonoran pronghorn population east of Yuma met with mixed success.