Utah Relocates 40 Bighorn Sheep

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

In mid-January, the Division of Wildlife Resources captured 40 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep using a net gun fired from a helicopter. After capturing the sheep, capture specialists attached them to a helicopter. Then they gave the sheep the ride of their life!

Hobbled and bagged, each animal was clipped one-by-one onto a long cable dangling from the helicopter. After up to five sheep were safely attached, the chopper pitched and swung into the air. Underneath, a bunch of wide-eyed sheep swung in the air too!

In all, three rams, 33 ewes and four lambs were flown about 30 miles up the Green River to Desolation Canyon. As its name implies, the canyon is rugged and remote — a perfect place to start a new population of bighorn sheep. DWR biologists want to establish bighorn sheep populations along the Green River corridor. The mid-January effort brought that objective a step closer to completion.

According to Acting Wildlife Manager Brad Crompton, strong bighorn sheep populations are found in the upper Green River corridor below Flaming Gorge and in Gray Canyon just north of Green River. Before the transplant, the middle portions of Desolation Canyon supported only small, isolated groups of bighorn sheep. The transplant of 40 new animals will bolster the distribution of sheep in the canyon and help connect isolated bighorn sheep populations along the Green River corridor.

Herd should do well

About three years ago, a wildfire burned about 5,000 acres in Desolation Canyon. The vegetation that's grown since the fire is ideal forage for bighorn sheep.

Combined with the water, cover and space the area provides, the new vegetation should provide the 40 sheep with the food resources they'll need to reproduce successfully.

Funding and support from the Utah Foundation for North American Wild Sheep helped make the transplant possible.