Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The ultimate petting zoo

“Just get in there! Keep your head low. And remember to watch out for horns, hooves, elbows and flying pronghorn.” Everyone had advice.

“What have I gotten myself into?” I wondered. I was standing behind Elison, a local hunter and volunteer. This was his tenth pronghorn roundup, and he was just as excited as ever. This was my first roundup, and I was beginning to doubt my sanity.

Elison was the biggest mugger (pronghorn wrangler) I could find—which was why I stood behind him. However, this didn’t give me the angle I needed for the point-of-view camera taped to my head. So I moved timidly into the line of fire. After all, my whole reason for going down to the Parker Mountains was to get this wild event on tape for the division’s outreach program.

Dust fills the air as muggers attempt to tackle the fastest land-based creatures in North America. Pronghorn can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Muggers, akin to rugby players, line up against a canvas curtain that divides the two halves of this circular corral. On the other side, a herd of pronghorn moves nervously. We can’t see them, but we can hear their hooves rumbling. Someone pulls back the curtain, and animals start flooding into our half of the corral. Now the fun begins!

I find myself dodging airborne pronghorn that are trying to jump over a 15-foot fence—and nearly making it. Muggers and pronghorn scramble in all directions. When I finally get hold of one, I carefully wrestle her to the ground and hope I’m not blindsided by one of her leaping cousins. After realizing the futility of kicking and fighting, my new friend tries a different approach: she joins the horrible chorus of wailers. As she growls, cries and sticks out her tongue, she looks like a child throwing a temper tantrum at the doctor’s office.

After the pronghorn receive their checkups, muggers carry them to the nearby trailer.

With help from another mugger, we pick up my pronghorn and carry her over for a checkup. Everything is fine. We put a collar on her and then struggle to load her into a horse trailer. A few pronghorn try to jump out when we open the door—they don’t realize they’re going on a vacation.

There’s almost no time to realize how much fun I just had before the second round begins!