New Mexico Releases Desert Bighorn Sheep at Red Rock W.A.

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After months of quarantine, desert bighorn sheep from Mexico were successfully released to join the existing herd at the Red Rock Wildlife Area. The 10 rams will supply new genes to a herd that began at Red Rock in the 1970s.

The newly introduced rams appear to be in good shape and the Department of Game and Fish is excited to see the outcome of years of collaborative efforts and wildlife roundups come to fruition with the release of these young sheep.

"It's nice to see that they all survived and they’re doing really well," bighorn sheep biologist Elise Goldstein said. "They're feisty and I think they’re going to be some good sturdy rams to add to the stock."

The state of New Mexico received the rams in exchange for pronghorn antelope that were moved to three wildlife management areas in Mexico over the last two years.

Desert bighorn sheep propagation began with just five ewes from Mexico and one ram from the San Andres National Wildlife Refuge on the White Sands Missile Range in 1972.

The Red Rock herd's offspring has helped restore desert bighorns across New Mexico's desert mountain ranges. Over the next decade, offspring from the Mexican rams will be used to augment desert bighorn populations across the state.

In 1980, desert bighorn sheep were listed as a state endangered species when the population was estimated at fewer than 70. Today, through management efforts including releases, selective predator control and support from numerous wildlife conservation groups, the population estimate is more than 565. This number exceeds delisting criteria as defined by the recovery plan for the species and desert bighorns are currently being reviewed as candidates for delisting.

The Department will conduct public hearings Sept. 6 regarding the recommendation to delist desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis mexicana) from the New Mexico threatened and endangered species list, pursuant to the Wildlife Conservation Act, Sections 17-2-37 through 17-2-46, NMSA 1978. The meetings:

  • 6 p.m. Sept. Truth or Consequences, Civic Center Chambers, 400 W. 4th St.
  • 6 p.m. Sept. 6, Deming, Special Events Center, 2300 E. Pine St.