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Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana)

Diet

  • Opportunistic herbivores; browse and graze; are "dainty" feeders choosing a wide variety of plants (O'Gara 1978)
  • Favor succulent, high-protein vegetation such as:
    • forbs
    • shrubs (rabbitbrush, sagebrush, bitterbrush, Prunus sp.)
    • grasses (bunchgrass, bluegrass, bottlebrush, ricegrass, squirreltail)
    • cacti (Opuntia sp.)
  • Grass makes up only about 12 percent of diet; Pronghorn during a Montana winter starved on grasslands but survived in sagebrush habitats. ( O'Gara 1978)

Feeding

  • Pronghorn are ruminants with a four-chambered stomach; in ruminants, bacteria, protozoa, and fungi help digest tough plant cellulose
  • During northern winters, Pronghorn are adept at pawing through
  • Elongated head and pointed mouth parts aid in gathering of leaves and flowers, which are more nutritious that stems and twigs
  • Peak foraging activity at dawn and dusk
  • Spend 40 to 60 percent of time feeding
  • Daily foraging movements of a herd vary from 0.1 to 0.8 km in the spring and summer to 3.2 to 9.7 km in the fall and winter
  • Pronghorn practice forage switching from season to season to optimize dietary benefits from the most preferred, nutritious, and succulent species available
  • 38 Pronghorn survive on the same amount of food required for one cow; 43.5 Pronghorn consumed the same amount of grass as one sheep (O'Gara 1978)

"Dainty" Feeder

newborn pronghorn being bottle fed by keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A newborn pronghorn being bottle-fed at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Byers (1997)
Hansen & Clark (1977)
O'Gara (1978)
O’Gara & Yoakum (2004)

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