Ever seen an antelope near the Tri-Cities? You might now

You might be seeing pronghorn antelope once again in the Mid-Columbia.

Washington state is at the northwest end of their native range, but their population declined significantly in the state in the 1800s and they became locally extinct.

They are back after the Yakama Nation reintroduce 99 onto their reservation in central Washington in 2011.

Also, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation reintroduced 150 of the animals onto their reservation northwest of Spokane in 2016 and 2017.

Since then the pronghorn antelope have migrated from the reservations onto state-managed land, and the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife is developing a plan to manage them.

The agency plans a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Benton Rural Electric Association, 402 Seventh St., in Prosser, to discuss management options and to hear from area residents.

It also is asking for feedback through an online survey posted at bit.ly/AntelopeSurvey.

The survey asks how people feel about having pronghorn antelope back in the region and whether there is interest in hunting them.

It also would like to hear from landowners who could face pronghorns grazing on their land.

Pronghorn antelope likely were never plentiful in Washington state, but historical records show that they did at least occasionally occupy much of the state’s shrub steppe landscape between the Cascade and Blue Mountains, said the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Pronghorn in Eastern Washington

“I think they are great to have on the landscape,” said Rich Harris, game division section manager for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Historically, they’ve been a natural part of our ecosystems across the flat grassland areas of Eastern Washington, though loss of habitat and changes in climate have made it difficult for a sustainable population to survive,” he said.

Pronghorn antelope do not do well in deep snow and populations can decline rapidly during harsh winters, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

They are generally considered the fastest land mammals in North America, but they are poor jumpers and do not easily clear fences as deer and elk do.

Because of their small size, standing about 2.5 to 3 feet at shoulder height, they are rarely considered a major agricultural pest, said state officials. However, they may feed on alfalfa or stockpiled hay.

State wildlife officials have tried three times to reintroduce pronghorn antelope to Central and Eastern Washington.

In the 1930s, pronghorn antelope from Nevada were released at the Yakima Training Center after first being kept in captivity.

In 1950 some of the animals were released near Ritzville in Adams County. And a third attempt to reintroduce pronghorn antelope was made in 1968 in Kittitas and Grant counties.

Many of the pronghorn antelope initially survived, reproduced and moved over wide areas. But by the mid-’80s none were known to have survived.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.