DWR Conducts Bighorn Sheep Research

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During the last week in January, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) captured 15 bighorn sheep (four rams and 11 ewes) to facilitate research of their movements relative to human recreational use. From the helicopter, a "gunner" fired a capture net over individual sheep, entangling them. A "mugger" then jumped to the ground and administered antibiotics and medications prior to fitting the captives with collars. Affixed to the collars were VHF and GPS radios and transceivers, allowing biologists to relocate individual sheep from the ground, in the air or via satellite.

The study is being conducted in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management. Both agency partners share a common concern about the effect of human recreational activity on this cliff and desert dweller. The research study will tell biologists how sheep respond to all kinds of human intrusion. Researchers will learn how jeeps, OHVs, bicycles and hiking affect the whereabouts and movements of the wild woolies.

Desert bighorns have been part of the Utah landscape for thousands of years. Ancient Native Americans commonly depicted bighorn sheep in their petroglyphs and pictographs. Bighorns were apparently the most common big game animal and human food source, until their near extirpation by settlers in the late 1800s. In the past several decades, the DWR has taken huge strides in returning the bighorn to its ancestral range and homeland. Rocky Mountain and desert races now occur in most Utah counties, and their numbers and distribution are expected to increase in future years.