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Wildlife Commission Updated on Pronghorn Study

pronhorn research inat
Bill Carrell/iNaturalist CC-BYNCND
Preliminary findings after two years of a four-year research project on Oklahoma's pronghorn population were provided to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission during its regular March meeting.


Oklahoma’s pronghorn population has declined, according to statistics presented by Dallas Barber, Big Game Biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, to members of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission at their regular meeting March 4. 

Aerial survey results in 2019 showed 2,088 pronghorns throughout Texas and Cimarron counties. That number decreased to 800 pronghorns counted this year. Hunters reported harvesting about 90 pronghorns in 2023, down from about 150 the previous year. 

In response to the trend, the Wildlife Department two years ago contracted with the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to conduct a four-year study of pronghorn in Oklahoma. Graduate student researcher Matt Turnley gave a status report to the Commission. 

By putting radio collars on captured pronghorns, Turnley said researchers can track animal movement and survival. He said preliminary results to this point indicate nearly all pronghorn born in the Oklahoma Panhandle spend their entire lives there. And the survival rate is about 75% annually for adult pronghorns and about 11% after about six months for fawns. 

He said the study is also looking into nutritional quality and predation as contributors to the declining pronghorn population. 

In other business, the Commission: 

  • Heard a presentation by Wildlife Division Chief Bill Dinkines recognizing Russ Horton, Assistant Chief of Wildlife, for winning the Oklahoma Award for outstanding contribution to wildlife management from the Oklahoma Chapter of The Wildlife Society.  
  • Received updates on various ODWC divisions from Interim Director Wade Free, including news of last week’s 88-3 vote in the state House of Representatives approving ODWC’s hunting and fishing license restructuring bill. The bill with amendments now moves to the state Senate. 
  • Heard a report from Communication and Education Chief Nels Rodefeld on bills that could impact the Wildlife Department if they become law in the 2024 Oklahoma Legislature
  • Recognized presentation of the Oklahoma Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s Publication and Creativity Award to ODWC’s Wildlife Diversity Program and Communication and Education Specialists Jena Donnell and Don P. Brown for the May/June issue of Outdoor Oklahoma magazine. 

In new business, Commission Chairwoman Leigh Gaddis recognized ODWC Executive Assistant Rhonda Hurst for her 32 years of service, many of which serving as Commission clerk during meetings. On behalf of the Commission, Gaddis presented Hurst an engraved vase. Hurst is planning to retire later this month. 

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is the eight-member governing board of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The Commission establishes state hunting and fishing regulations, sets policy for the Wildlife Department, and indirectly oversees all state fish and wildlife conservation activities. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Oklahoma Senate. 

The next regular Wildlife Commission meeting is set for April 1, 2024, at the John D. Groendyke Wildlife Conservation Building, 1801 N. Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City. 

A video of the March 4 meeting is available on the Outdoor Oklahoma YouTube Channel at


russ horton award
Don P. Brown/ODWC
Gathered for presentation of the Oklahoma Award from the Oklahoma Chapter, The Wildlife Society are ODWC Wildlife Chief Bill Dinkines, award winner ODWC Wildlife Assistant Chief Russ Horton, and Colter Chitwood, chapter board member and assistant professor at Oklahoma State University.


ODO award
Micah Holmes/ODWC
Gathered to be recognized for an Oklahoma Chapter, The Wildlife Society Publication and Creativity Award to Outdoor Oklahoma magazine are Communication and Education Chief Nels Rodefeld, Research Coordinator Kurt Kuklinski, and C&E Specialist Don P. Brown. (Micah Holmes/ODWC)


rhonda hurst retiring
Don P. Brown/ODWC
Executive Assistant Rhonda Hurst receives an engraved vase from the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission and Commission Chairwoman Leigh Gaddis in appreciation for her 32 years of service to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The March 6, 2024, meeting marked the last in which Hurst served as Commission clerk. (Don P. Brown/ODWC)