Sheep Tag Money Received
Idaho recently received money for wild sheep habitat from the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep following the auction of one bighorn sheep tag.
The Idaho tag went for $90,000 at the sheep organization's annual convention earlier this year. Of that amount, 95 percent ($85,000 this year) comes directly to Idaho for use on the Hells Canyon sheep project. Idaho sheep tags tend to vary widely in the money they draw from year to year depending on the availability of a hunt in the acclaimed Unit 11. Such a hunt is available this fall.
One other tag is made available through a lottery system so that hunters who cannot afford the auction tag have a chance. Funds from the lottery are mostly earmarked for wild sheep health research.
In the mid 1990s, the three states that share the canyon - Idaho, Washington and Oregon - along with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS) launched an ambitious project called the "Hells Canyon Initiative". This is an effort to restore wild sheep to their historical abundance and gain further knowledge of the factors that affect bighorn populations throughout North America.
"The thing that's really exciting about Hells Canyon is how much potential sheep habitat is here. There's literally over a million acres of sheep habitat. The area can support thousands of sheep and did in the past," according to Frances Cassirer, Idaho Fish and Game research biologist and the tri-state coordinator for the Hells Canyon Initiative.
The area is vast, rugged and spectacular; an imposing, primitive landscape twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.
More than 800 bighorns are estimated to live in the canyon, scattered in 15 different herds.