Rocky Mountain Sheep Capture and Relocation Planned

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The Arizona Game and Fish Department is conducting its first-ever in-state capture and relocation of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep on Nov. 19 in southeastern Arizona.

This event is significant in that, although Rocky Mountain sheep have been transplanted into various locations throughout eastern Arizona, the captured sheep have always come from out-of-state sources. This will be Arizona's first-ever, in-state capture and relocation of this wild sheep subspecies.

Biologists are hoping to capture 20 animals from a population that has surplus animals in the lower Eagle Creek drainage, and an additional 10 animals in the vicinity of the Phelps-Dodge Mine, outside of Morenci. The captured sheep will then be transported to the Bear Canyon area, located in proximity to the Blue River in the eastern portion of Game Management Unit 27, and released. The released animals will bolster a small, existing population of about 10 Rocky Mountain sheep in Bear Canyon.

Hawkins and Powers, a wildlife-capture company based in Wyoming, will utilize a helicopter to gather the necessary sheep in Eagle Creek, bringing them back to a central staging area to be checked by veterinarians, tagged, and fitted with radio collars.

At the same time, other department personnel will use net guns and tranquilizer darts to capture animals at the mine, which have become habituated to people and are causing traffic problems along Highway 191.