By Charles J. Lohrmann
By many accounts, the pronghorn has rarely been thought of as more than a fast-moving goat. Now, Prairie Ghost: Pronghorn and Human Interaction in Early America (A Wildlife Management Institute Book published by the University Press of Colorado, 175 pages, $29.95 hardcover) elevates the creature’s identity to near-mythic stature. The timespan of the book is about 10,000 years — from prehistory to the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 — closing with the “genesis of conservation,” which is defined by the efforts of George Bird Grinnell and Theodore Roosevelt. In between, you’ll find amazing accounts of ceremonial hunts, pronghorn legend and wilderness adventure.
This volume itself bears out the title’s provocative notion of human/animal interaction by creating a compelling history for the pronghorn — and explaining the motivations of those who hunted the animal. The book brings the pronghorn to life through intricate documentation and an all-star lineup of illustrations (including paintings by Audubon, Bierstadt, Bodmer, Catlin, Leigh, Miller and Russell). Even the most well-versed reader will gain new knowledge and perspective by plunging into the amazing depth of the appendices and tables (one table lists details of 57 observations of pronghorn by Lewis and Clark, while another lists two dozen reports concerning the use of masks by Native American hunters to stalk pronghorn). Without reading (and rereading) this book, no conservationist can claim complete knowledge of the pronghorn. Readers owe a significant debt to the University Press of Colorado, publisher of this book from the Wildlife Management Institute.