Longtime TWS member Bill Hepworth honored for pronghorn work

By David Frey

Retired Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Bill Hepworth has been inducted into the Pronghorn Hall of Fame for his lifelong research into Wyoming’s iconic species. ©Shannon Broderick/Laramie Boomerang

His lifelong research earned him a spot in Wyoming’s Pronghorn Hall of Fame

When Bill Hepworth began studying Wyoming’s iconic pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) in the 1960s, the fleet-footed animal still had the run of much of the state’s open grasslands, and much of what biologists now know about it was still a mystery.

In the decades that followed, Hepworth’s studies and those he supervised have become the foundation for the research that followed and earned him a spot in the Pronghorn Hall of Fame.

“Hepworth is the dean of pronghorn research and management in Wyoming,” wrote Rich Guenzel, a retired Wyoming Game and Fish biologist and Pronghorn Hall of Fame inductee, in his letter nominating Hepworth.

Many of Hepworth’s early projects on the pronghorn of Wyoming’s Red Desert “are considered classic studies,” Guenzel wrote, and they became the “baseline for current and future research in the state.”

The Pronghorn Hall of Fame was created by the Biennial Western States & Provinces Pronghorn Workshop, which is sanctioned through the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, to honor longtime work in pronghorn conservation.

“They’re a very singular species,” said Hepworth, a longtime TWS member and retired Wyoming Game and Fish biologist who dedicated much of his career to studying the pronghorn. “They’re certainly magnificent in their ability to survive under extreme conditions. They can cover long distances over short periods of time and live in harsh conditions. They’re beautiful to watch. They’re magnificent in their ability to see and avoid predators. And they’re just exemplary of the desert habitat in Wyoming and elsewhere.”

Hepworth was a fish biologist when he was hired by Wyoming Game and Fish in 1956, but he served much of his career directing the department’s Game and Fish Laboratory and Technical Research Program, where he became involved in pronghorn research. From 1987 until his retirement in 1995, Hepworth served as wildlife management coordinator for southeast Wyoming.

As an adjunct University of Wyoming professor, he taught two undergraduate wildlife management classes and co-directed and mentored wildlife graduate students in fish and wildlife, range management and animal science. Research he co-authored in 1973 on pronghorn abundance, distribution and food habits is still widely cited.

“Bill’s knowledge and advice on pronghorn are still sought out today,” Guenzel wrote.

Hepworth is only the seventh person to be inducted into the Pronghorn Hall of Fame.

David Frey is an editor at The Wildlife Society. Contact him at dfrey@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about his article. Read more of David's articles here.

You can follow him on Twitter at @davidmfrey.