SCI Pledges $50,000 to Nebraska's Bighorn Sheep Program

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The Nebraska Chapter of Safari Club International (SCI) pledged a donation of $10,000 per year for five years to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commissions bighorn sheep program at a Commission meeting in Lincoln Aug. 30.

Wildlife Division Administrator Jim Douglas said this years donation will be used to pay for costs associated with acquiring up to 50 bighorn sheep from Montana.

Douglas expressed appreciation for the SCI donation. "The Nebraska Chapter of Safari Club International was the original partner with the Commission for the re-introduction of bighorn sheep to our state and has been at our side as the program has progressed. SCI auctioned the first auction permit in 1998 -- it sold for $87,500."

When the Commission acquired 49 bighorns from Montana in January of 2005, the costs of using a helicopter, capturing, and transporting the sheep to Nebraska came to about $750 per animal, which was paid in large measure with funds resulting from the sale of lottery and auction bighorn hunting permits, according to Douglas.

Funds from those sources wont be available this year. In late 2004 and early 2005 about half of the Fort Robinson bighorn herd died from pasteurella pneumonia, a bacteria- caused respiratory disease. Then, in early 2006, 30-35 sheep, about half of the Wildcat Hills herd, also died from the disease. As a result of those losses, the Commission was forced to cancel this falls bighorn sheep hunting season.

Douglas said, "Maintaining Nebraskas bighorn sheep population has been expensive. For instance, to increase gender diversity of the Pine Ridge herd in Nebraska two years ago, we acquired 50 additional bighorns from Montana, which cost about $750 per animal. Supplemental translocations from Montana are scheduled this winter and were extremely happy SCI has seen fit to provide this much needed donation to the program at this time."

Regardless of the unfortunate recent losses to pneumonia, the fact is that overall the sheep have done well in both the Wildcat Hills and the Pine Ridge. "We consistently seek to improve our knowledge about continuous success of the herd through research projects to identify key lambing habitats, and more recently, to conduct research in hoof deformation in the Wildcat Hills," Douglas said.