DFW Seeks Comments on Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goat Management

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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife welcomes public comments on a revised draft plan to direct agency efforts to meet its goal of healthy populations of bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat in all available and suitable habitat within historic ranges.

The draft plan summarizes the management history and current population status of three of Oregon’s most charismatic wildlife subspecies: Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat. It also presents guidelines for future management, transplant activities and coordination with other agencies. The current version was revised based on comments received from the public on the June 2003 version.

Public comments on the October 2003 draft are due Nov. 17, 2003, to ODFW’s Wildlife Division so they can be presented to the Commission Dec. 12, 2003. The entire draft is posted to the ODFW Web site.

The plan lists the following strategies for future management, which are dependent on available funding:
Seek available Rocky Mountain bighorn transplant stock from growing in-state herds or out-of-state sources;
Manage genetic diversity of California bighorn populations;
Manage California bighorn populations within available habitat capacity;
Cooperate with public land management agencies and private landowners to expand available habitat by controlling junipers, noxious weeds and woody vegetation, and improving water sources;
Evaluate trap and transplant priorities annually for California bighorn based on habitat, genetic diversity, population size and research needs;
- Maintain historic integrity of the two bighorn sheep subspecies by transplanting Rocky Mountain bighorn north of the Burnt River drainage and east of the John Day River drainage, and transplanting California bighorn in central and southeast Oregon;
- Avoid the potential for wild sheep herds to interact with domestic or exotic sheep herds and decrease disease risks;
- Attempt to capture any bighorn sheep that has contacted domestic or exotic sheep for disease testing and humane euthanasia to reduce risk to wild herd;
- Test for disease during all trap and transplant operations to protect both the wild sheep herds and livestock industry;
- Seek law change to allow hunters to obtain one controlled bighorn ram tag and one bighorn ewe tag in a lifetime;
- Support strong enforcement of wildlife laws and court prosecution of offenders to prevent bighorn sheep poaching through cooperative efforts with Oregon State Police;
- Work with private landowners and public land managers with exotic sheep to reduce disease threats to native herds or remove them;
- Improve public access to bighorn sheep herds through a variety of cooperative efforts with private landowners;
- Provide recreational opportunities for the public to view and hunt bighorn sheep;
- Evaluate, and if necessary manage, the effects of cougar predation on bighorn sheep herds;
- Evaluate the potential for wolves to affect bighorn sheep herds;
- Work with tribal governments to establish herds for tribal management;
- Maintain and improve genetic diversity of Rocky Mountain goat populations;
- Educate members of the public who are camping in goat habitat of potential aggressive behavior by goats seeking salt or other minerals;
- Use ground and/or aerial surveys to monitor goat populations;
Cooperative work with other agencies and organizations to manage situations where goats are adversely affecting threatened or endangered plant species;
- Use trap and transplant to reduce populations in a specific areas if goat numbers rise above goals;
- Cooperatively work with land management agencies when planning trap and transplant operations;
- Pursue a variety of funding sources to pay for the increasing costs of wild sheep and goat management and explore ways to reduce costs; and
- Evaluate biological and social impacts of allowing hunters to hold one Rocky Mountain bighorn tag and one California bighorn tag in a lifetime.

ODFW encourages interested individuals to submit written comments on the draft plan. The final draft Oregon Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goat Management Plan will be reviewed by the ODFW Commission at the Dec. 12, 2003, meeting in Salem. Written comments must be received by Nov. 17, 2003 at the following address: Don Whittaker, ODFW Wildlife Division, 3406 Cherry Avenue NE, Salem, OR 97303 or email Don.Whittaker@state.or.us.