The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish captured 277 pronghorn antelope this month that had been damaging alfalfa fields on the Smith Ranch between Springer and Clayton in the northeastern part of that state.

The animals were relocated to Mexico; Santa Ana Pueblo, a ranch near Grants, NM; and Bureau of Land Management property near San Antonio Mountain, augmenting some existing herds. The pronghorns sent to Mexico were part of an exchange; New Mexico will receive desert bighorn sheep rams to expand the gene pool in the captive herd at Red Rock Wildlife Area.

A helicopter was used to herd antelope into a large funnel trap, a technique developed by the department in the 1930s, when crews had been herding animals with horses and automobiles. More than 60 people were involved in the capture from March 8-10. The effort included erecting four miles of fencing, some of which will remain on the ranch as a permanent barrier to keep pronghorns off the alfalfa fields.

Department wildlife biologists and participating veterinarians were pleased with the extremely low mortality rate during the operation. Only eight pronghorns died as a result of injuries or stress from trapping and transit operations. Each animal received a health check and ear tags. Some were fitted with radio collars before they were transported in trailers to their new homes.