Where the Desert Ghost Roams

The U.S. Mexico border is a challenging place to survive for a Sonoran pronghorn. Nearly two decades ago, this endangered species faced near extinction in its only home, an embroiled, increasingly shrinking habitat in Southwest Arizona. There in the Sonoran Desert, a passionate recovery team has dedicated significant efforts and investments to sustaining the approximately 200 remaining Sonoran pronghorns left in the U.S. The team faces two enormous obstacles that most endangered species rescue missions don’t usually have to deal with. The first: a persistent drought that zaps water and plant life from the desert, making it hard for the animal to stay hydrated a nd fed. The second: Human disturbance in its range from off road driving by U.S. border patrol agents monitoring migrants. Its home happens to be one of the most concentrated areas of illegal activity at the border, and the off road driving further dries out vital plant life and diverts waterflow in the desert. It’s also not the only environmental impact of border activity, as the recovery team’s research shows. For the Sonoran pronghorn — North America’s fastest land mammal, an iconic creature seen on the landscape since prehistoric times — there is nowhere to go when the rain never comes during drought. The recovery team monitors the dire situation chasing pronghorns that can sprint up to 60 miles per hour to deliver food and water when the Sonoran Desert is too dry to graze. As it becomes harder for the Sonoran pronghorn to escape increasingly inescapable human activity, it also becomes harder for the recovery team to ensure the Sonoran pronghorn survives its estimated nearly one in four chance of being extinct by the end of this century.


Ashley Belanger

About Ashley Belanger

Ashley Belanger is a journalist whose reporting, features, and essays explore the tensions between what science discovers and what humans experience. Captivated by neuroscience and technology, as an arts critic, she garnered recognition for essays discussing scientific theories in the context of pop music. Through her career, she’s engaged communities both local, as associate editor of Orlando Weekly, and national, as culture writer for the classic television network MeTV. In her freelance reporting, she works to connect public health studies to critical social issues and has generated in-depth web features for Teen Vogue on complex topics, including child marriage and school shootings. She earned a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Florida. Thesis: Where the Desert Ghost Roams


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