Survival and cause-specific mortality of pronghorns (Antilocapra americana) have been well-documented in several western states and Canadian provinces. However, no information has been collected in western South Dakota, USA, where mixed-grass prairie habitats characterize rangelands. The objectives of our study were to determine survival and cause-specific mortality of adult (>18 months) and yearling (6–18 months) pronghorns and to determine monthly and summer (Jun–Aug) survival for neonatal (<1 month of age) pronghorns in South Dakota. We radiocollared 93 adult female and 142 neonatal pronghorns on 3 areas in western South Dakota. We used bed sites from initial neonate captures to collect microhabitat information throughout Harding and Fall River counties. We measured vegetation understory and overstory height, shrub canopy, and distance to nearest concealment cover to the nearest centimeter inside 1-m2 quadrats by collecting measurements at 15 random points within a 30-m radius of the bed site. We documented that coyote (Canis latrans) predation was the primary cause of mortality for neonates in western South Dakota and that microhabitat characteristics at neonate bed sites differed between northwestern and southwestern South Dakota. More intensive aerial predator control may increase neonate survival in Fall River County. Management of rangelands by state and federal employees throughout western South Dakota and Wind Cave National Park that maximizes height of overstory and understory vegetation would provide neonates with adequate concealment cover for protection from predators, thereby increasing 4-week and 12-week postcapture survival. Our study provides South Dakota game managers with region-specific, annual and seasonal survival rates that were previously only estimated, thus improving the accuracy of simulated pronghorn population model output. Hunting was the primary cause of mortality (26%) for adult females in Harding and Fall River counties, thereby confirming the continued use of annual harvest by South Dakota game managers as the primary management tool for maintaining pronghorn populations within statewide population management goals.
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Vol. 71 • No. 3