Pronghorn dies after plummeting off cliff

A doe pronghorn plunged to her death Tuesday afternoon after running full speed off the cliffs of Hammer Flat, narrowly missing a group of rock climbers staging below.

The collared doe, #19938, was part of a newly-launched pronghorn project designed to learn more about the seasonal movements of pronghorn in the area. Collared in March of 2019, she had already provided F&G staff with some valuable movement information.

The climbers reported hearing a "whistling sound" and were startled to look up and see the doe hurtling toward them. The doe landed within 10 feet of the climbers, and more than 20 feet from the base of the cliff, suffering a broken neck and numerous internal injuries.

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Jamie Utz, IDFG

The question is, why would a pronghorn do such a thing? Dense fog is sometimes responsible for these kind of occurrences, but the skies were clear over the valley on Tuesday. It's likely that a more easily controllable reason led to the doe's death: dogs off leash.

Hammer Flat is part of the Boise River Wildlife Management area (WMA), all of which is governed by a leash law. And for good reason: the area provides refuge for thousands of wintering big game animals - deer, elk and pronghorn. An at-large domestic dog can cause big game animals to move, forcing them to expend precious calories in the process. In the race to outlast winter, every calorie counts, and just one unnecessary disturbance can mean the difference between life and death.

Fish and Game allows public access to Boise River WMA property with a few, easily followed rules, one of which is dogs must be leashed. In this story, the theory is that a WMA guest recreating on Hammer Flat was doing so with an off leash dog. The dog spooked the doe pronghorn from her day bed or otherwise made her feel trapped. Panic-stricken, she made an effort to get away, leading to her untimely death and that of her unborn twin fawns.

This story serves as a harsh reminder of why dogs must be leashed when visiting Boise River WMA. If you are a dog owner who enjoys the open spaces of the WMA, please be a respectful guest and follow the rules. You might just save a life in the process.