Accidents involving pronghorns uncommon, unlike state's deer herd

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

COLBY -- Caution is the watchword when traveling Kansas highways and byways when it comes to deer.

Pronghorn antelope, however, are another story entirely.

Even though the Kansas Department of Transportation is installing cables along the outer-most right-of-way boundaries west of Colby rather than fences, the wildlife danger likely won't come from pronghorns.

Simply put, according to wildlife biologist Matt Bain, pronghorns generally avoid Interstate 70 rather than try dashing across when vehicles aren't rumbling down the battered ribbon of concrete and blacktop.

In fact, the cable itself might be a bit of a danger to the pronghorns. Generally, fences are a concern for pronghorns. They abhor the idea of jumping a fence, preferring instead to scoot under the lowest wire instead.

Sometimes, they simply don't see a fence and crash into it.

The cable along I-70, Bain said, should be big enough so the animals can spot it.

But pronghorn generally don't cross the highway.

"I have yet, and you may think I'm crazy, I have yet to see a vehicle kill a pronghorn," said Bain, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' district biologist based in Colby. "And I've never heard of one."

Deer, on the other hand, often are the bane of Kansas drivers.

Last year, for example, there were 9,628 motor vehicle accidents involving deer. Over the past five years, nearly 50,000 accidents have been reported and 19 people have died.

Just last year, three people died in accidents with deer.

But Bain even has his doubts that pronghorns cross the interstate, at least on any sort of regular basis.

Instead, based on the locations where pronghorns are seen on the north side of the interstate, he's speculating the animals might be using underpasses as a means to cross the highway.

There are underpasses at Brewster, Mingo and Levant.

"That's the only three places I see them north of the interstate," Bain said.

That reluctance to cross I-70 is a factor in distribution of the pronghorn, and why they can only be hunted south of there.

"We manage our pronghorn from I-70 south," Bain said.

There are a few found in both Sherman and Cheyenne counties, he said, but it's likely those animals drift over from Colorado rather than migrating north from Kansas' primary population.

Bain said it's also possible that there aren't many accidents involving pronghorns simply because they're not a nocturnal animal.

"I think just them not moving around at night as something to do with it," he said. "I think they do avoid people much more than deer."