Early travelers to America's West told of pronghorn herds dotting the plains as far as the eye could see, more numerous than bison. It was estimated that there were about 100 million pronghorn and 65 million bison, providing settlers with plenty of meat and hides. But as more people arrived in the West, pronghorn habitat and food was reduced.
By 1920, there were only about 13,000 pronghorn left. Part of this major decline was due to hunting. Early settlers would tie handkerchiefs to poles and wave them in the air in a technique called flagging to attract curious pronghorn within gunshot range. Flagging is now illegal, and protection of habitat and restrictions on hunting have allowed the pronghorn to recover a bit. Two pronghorn subspecies—the Sonoran pronghorn Antilocapra americana sonoriensis and peninsular pronghorn Antilocapra americana peninsularis—are endangered due to illegal hunting.
But help is on the way! There are now several measures being taken to help return the Sonoran and peninsular pronghorn to areas of restored natural habitat. The San Diego Zoo is participating as a supporting partner in such a program for the peninsular pronghorn in Baja California, Mexico.