Announcing The Pronghorn Fund: Safeguarding Wyoming’s Iconic Wildlife Legacy

Pronghorn, often referred to as the crown jewel of Wyoming’s wildlife, symbolize the state’s unique natural heritage. Their graceful presence has captivated generations, embodying the spirit of the untamed West. Wyoming has the largest intact pronghorn herds in North America. In the wake of the massive winter die-off of 2022-23, coupled with habitat loss and changes brought on by human development, Wyoming’s iconic pronghorn population is struggling. More species-specific research and projects are needed to preserve this iconic population, all of which requires funding.

Rich and Mary Guenzel, long-time Wyoming residents, are eager to provide this funding. They are the generous donors behind the new Pronghorn Fund, a permanently endowed fund within The WYldlife Fund to advance pronghorn habitat, research, and education in Wyoming. With an initial investment of $350,000, investment earnings from this fund will be put to work in the protection of Wyoming’s pronghorn.

Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department

Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department

This new fund represents a pivotal moment in The WYldlife Fund’s unwavering commitment to wildlife conservation in Wyoming. It serves as a shining example of how individuals can channel their passion for Wyoming’s wildlife into tangible impact through restricted gifts to The WYldlife Fund. The Guenzels’ profound dedication to pronghorn conservation exemplifies this ethos, and we are thrilled to offer them a platform to make a lasting difference in safeguarding this iconic species. Whether you share a passion for pronghorn or any other member of Wyoming’s wildlife, The WYldlife Fund stands ready to collaborate with you in any capacity to contribute to the conservation efforts of your chosen population.

Furthermore, while we recognize and applaud the invaluable efforts of various NGOs across the state dedicated to caring for a number of specific species, The WYldlife Fund now positions itself as a premier organization for those passionate about pronghorn conservation. With the establishment of The Pronghorn Fund, we invite individuals seeking to make a targeted contribution to pronghorn conservation to join us in our mission to protect and preserve these remarkable animals for generations to come.

Last week, we spoke with Rich to learn more about what this species means to him and his wife. “I’d always enjoyed seeing them as a kid,” Rich said. “I grew up in Texas and my parents would take me camping and visiting national parks in Colorado and Wyoming. We would go through the panhandle of Texas and into New Mexico–that was where we’d usually see the first glimpses of pronghorn.” His fascination began there. “The more I learned, the more fascinated by them I became.”

As a young man, Rich moved to Wyoming to attend college at the University of Wyoming, where he studied wildlife biology. He then became a state biologist in the Laramie region, dedicating the next 25 years to the research, conservation, and management of pronghorn, among numerous other species. It was during this time that he met his wife, Mary, who worked as an occupational therapist. They bonded over their shared love of the outdoors and activities like hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, and nature photography. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mary & Rich Guenzel

As a biologist, Rich’s contributions to pronghorn research and management were instrumental in shaping conservation efforts across the region. Now retired, he and Mary want to give back to the species that encapsulates their beloved home state and, more broadly, the West. “There is no better large mammal in Wyoming that exemplifies the character of our state than the pronghorn,” Rich said.

The WYldlife Fund is proud to provide the foundation on which to build The Pronghorn Fund. This fund represents a new chapter in The WYldlife Fund’s commitment to conservation in Wyoming. It will prioritize investments in key areas critical to pronghorn conservation. These include:

    • Habitat Restoration: Supporting initiatives to restore and conserve pronghorn habitats, particularly their winter ranges. Recent findings from Hall Sawyer and Andrew Telander highlight the pressing issue of unavailable pronghorn habitat in the Red Desert, with an estimated 104,000 acres rendered inaccessible due to exclusionary/woven wire fencing (Sawyer & Telander, 2024). The Pronghorn Fund offers an immediate opportunity to address this critical habitat loss and provide essential support to pronghorn populations devastated by last winter’s challenges.
  • Fence exclusion areas in the Red Desert (Sawyer & Telander, 2024)

    • Migration Protection: Contributing to the establishment and maintenance of wildlife corridors to help pronghorn migrate safely across their habitat. This includes land protection, wildlife-friendly fencing solutions, and wildlife crossings and underpasses.
    • Scientific Research: Funding research projects aimed at better understanding pronghorn behavior, habitat needs, and the threats they face.
    • Education and Outreach: Developing educational programs to raise awareness about the importance of pronghorn conservation and the delicate balance of Wyoming’s ecosystems.
    • Community Engagement: Collaborating with local communities to implement conservation initiatives and foster stewardship of pronghorn habitats.

As stewards of Wyoming’s natural heritage, the establishment of The Pronghorn Fund represents a milestone in our collective commitment to conservation. Through collaboration and innovation, we have the opportunity to ensure that pronghorns continue to roam freely across Wyoming’s landscapes for generations to come. With the support of individuals, organizations, and communities, we can safeguard the future of these iconic creatures and preserve the wild spirit of the West. Together, we embark on a journey to protect Wyoming’s crown jewel—the pronghorn.

If you are interested in making a direct gift, or learning more about naming The Pronghorn Fund in your estate planning, please reach out to Chris McBarnes at 307-316-3863 or

Photo courtesy of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department

Works Cited: 
Sawyer, H., & Telander, A. (2024). Lander Region/Red Desert Pronghorn Study. Laramie: Western Ecosystems Technology, Inc.