Drivers at White Sands Missile Range are cautioned and reminded that the mixture of speed and oryx can end up deadly.
In the past five years, about 20 oryx have been hit by drivers, according to Randy Grunow, the Installation Safety and Nuclear Surety Director at WSMR.
“The real hazard with them is on the roads. They cross a lot and people can’t see them because they blend in with the terrain,” Grunow said.
The oryx is a large antelope that lives in Southern New Mexico. It can weigh up to 450 lbs and stands almost four feet tall at the shoulder. Both males and females have horns averaging almost three feet long. They are brown with black and white markings and can blend in with the desert bushes.
While the number of oryx has decreased, they can still be a danger to drivers. Grunow offered tips to help drivers avoid hitting an oryx while driving in the WSMR area.
“The key to not hitting the oryx is following speed limits, always having your head on a swivel and on the lookout for them,” Grunow said. “They blend in with the terrain, (so) you want to be traveling at speeds that you’re able to react; so you can slow down and let them cross on our range roads.”
WSMR and Game and Fish have brought down the oryx population to less than 2,000 by organizing hunts that target heavily populated areas.
“(Game and Fish) will come in and they actually give permits to hunt them, and they’ll hunt those specific areas. They found that 2,000 is about the right number to where we can actually manage them and they don’t become a nuisance on the range,” Grunow said.
The oryx is originally from the Kalahari Desert in Africa. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish first released the oryx in an experimental region in Red Rock, New Mexico in order to establish a large animal population for hunting. About 40 years ago, 93 of the offspring were taken from the area and released at WSMR.
The oryx population migrated south, reaching close to Fort Bliss, Texas and grew to about 3,500 because of the lack of effective predators and the abundance of food in the area. The oryx are very adapted to the desert. They eat desert grasses and plants and can go long periods of time without water.