5.3-pronghornFleetest Animal in North America

Fast, sleek and powerfully muscled, the pronghorn (also called antelope) relies on intact corridors for long migrations that can be 150 miles one way. To survive harsh winters, they nibble sagebrush leaves poking up from the snow.

Their best tactic to avoid danger is to see predators from far away and then race away. That’s why you’ll find them in open sagebrush country .

Cool fact: The pronghorn can reach speeds of up to 60 mph. That earns this North American animal the title of second fastest animal in the world – only the cheetah can spring faster.

Learn more at the National Geographic Society.

Mule Deer

5.3-muledeerSagebrush Diet Key in Winter

Some of the best mule deer habitat in the west can be found in intact sagebrush landscapes. Like pronghorn, mule deer turn to sagebrush to eat in winter. That’s why you’ll often see them sharing sage grouse country. They come down from mountains in fall to converge in lower elevation valleys, and in spring, they head back up into the mountains following the greening of spring.

The Nature Conservancy, Sage Grouse Initiative and other partners have teamed up on a science project studying where mule deer and sage grouse conservation efforts intersect. New insights from this work will help guide future conservation actions to maximize benefits to both.

Learn more –
A new study by Wyoming scientists spotlight mule deer and their movements; The Nature Conservancy.
The Mule Deer Foundation’s magazine published an outstanding two-part series on sage grouse and mule deer. The foundation is one of the Sage Grouse Initiative’s major partners, helping fund positions for our “boots-on-the ground” efforts.  Download the article, Part 1.  Download Part 2.


5.3-elkDid you know that elk and sage grouse share 40 million acres of sagebrush habitat? Sagebrush country serves as winter range and calving grounds. Elk that spend summers high in mountain range will migrate as far as 90 miles to find low-elevation winter range, searching for big unbroken expanses of sagebrush country,

When grasses dry out in late summer, elk find protein in the buds of sagebrush and other browse. In the harshest part of winter, the sagebrush poking up through the snow becomes a life-saver of a food source. The sagebrush plays another role when there’s snow on the ground. The dark branches warm in the sun, melting the snow below to expose the grasses below faster. The sage leaves and branches make air pockets in the snow, too, that make the snow softer and easier for elk to paw through drifts to find grasses.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is another key partner of the Sage Grouse Initiative and across the states has helped to enhance more than a half-million acres of sagebrush.

To  learn more, read an excellent article published in RMEF’s journal Bugle.

Brewer's Sparrow

5.3BrewersSparrowOpera Singer of the Sage

Living in sagebrush shrublands with short grass, the Brewer’s Sparrow used to be one of the most abundant birds in the Intermountain west. Today, it’s declining, and its future is closely linked to the sage grouse. Their twin needs? Big healthy areas of sagebrush. The Brewer’s sparrow builds its nest in a large sagebrush, low in the shrubs and well concealed.

Cool Fact: The Brewer’s sparrow is an amazing singer and arguably one of the most musical and complex in the bird world.

Learn more – listen to its song and find out more about where to find Brewer’s sparrows,

Pygmy Rabbit

5.3pygmyrabbitTiny & Elusive

The smallest rabbit in North America eats a diet that’s 99 percent sagebrush. Weighing just a pound, the pygmy rabbit is half the size of a mountain cottontail. One pygmy rabbit could fit in the palm of your hand. If you’re lucky enough to spot this elusive animal, you will be walking in habitats with deep diggable soils and dense sagebrush. You might find their runways between sage thickets.

In the state of Washington, the pygmy rabbit is endangered with active programs to reintroduce the animals and restore habitats.

Cool fact: The pygmy rabbit is the only kind of rabbit to dig its own burrow.

Learn more at the BLM’s webpage about the pygmy rabbit.

Sagebrush Vole

5.3sagetbrushvoleNocturnal & Wary

The social sagebrush vole feeds on grass, flowers, and leaves, including sagebrush. It lives in burrows in loose soil beneath shrubs. The young are born in an underground nest chamber often lined with shredded sagebrush bark. Active year-round, this vole ventures out at night (close to dawn or dusk) and keeps a watch for its many predators, including owls, hawks, snakes, coyotes, and badgers.

Cool fact: Sagebrush voles are one of the few kinds of voles to live in colonies, with burrow entrances found in clusters of 8-30.

Sage Thrasher

5.3sagethrasherStrong-legged Runner

The sage thrasher builds its cup nest in the sagebrush and sometimes will top it off with a canopy over the nest. It’s a ground forager, running after insects in the summer. In fall and winter, the bird adds berries and other wild fruit. A little smaller than an American robin, the sage thrasher has long strong legs, a long tail and yellow eyes.

Cool fact: A courting male impresses a female with a zigzag flight over the sagebrush and landing on a bush with his wings held high.

Learn more – and listen to its song; The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Sage Sparrow

5.3-sagesparrowNest Weaver

If you see a small grayish bird with its tail raised running between big sagebrush and low bunchgrasses, you may have spotted a sage sparrow. This bird weaves a cup nest of twigs and grasses within a sagebrush shrub. It feeds on insects like grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, ants, and lacewings. Seeds are a favorite too. After nesting season, the birds gather in loose flocks and move from the northern parts of their range southward.

Cool fact: Males return to the same breeding grounds every year.

Learn more – and listen to its song; The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.