Feral horses occupy 31.6 million acres throughout western North America. Feral horses share similar habitats with a wide range of animal species, including pronghorn. Since horses are larger and often more aggressive than other animals of this region, they are generally socially dominant over all other native ungulate species. Pronghorn share water sources with horses in areas where both occur. In situations where horses exclude pronghorn from water, pronghorn fitness may be impaired, especially during the hottest months of the year when water is limited. The purpose of this study was to investigate interference competition between pronghorn and feral horses at water sources. During spring and summer 2010-11, we placed motion-sensitive cameras at water sources across the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Nevada. Cameras were used to examine the overlap of water use by pronghorn and horses and to determine the occurrence of spatial or temporal partitioning of water between these species. Additionally, we made direct observations of horses and pronghorn at high-use water sources to record the occurrences and outcomes of pronghorn/horse interactions as well as differences in pronghorn behavior in the presence and absence of horses. Pronghorn spent more time on vigilance behavior and less time foraging or drinking in the presence of horses than in their absence. Nearly half of pronghorn/horse interactions at water resulted in pronghorn exclusion from water. Our data also suggest that temporal partitioning of water between horses and pronghorn on an hourly basis may be occurring.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





Antilocapra americana, Equus caballus, feral horses, interference competition, pronghorn, Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge