Utah Explains Reasons for Transplanting Animals

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"Why are you taking our moose?" It's a good question that the DWR receives from sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts almost every time they conduct a transplant. There are three basic reasons why wildlife professionals move animals from one area to another: (1) public safety threats, (2) surplus populations and (3) maintaining quality habitat.

In the case of moose transplants from northern Utah, many are done for public safety concerns that result from surplus populations. By January of 2006, the moose population in the Ogden River and north Morgan County had reached a point where moose were dispersing into new areas. Their numbers had exceeded the carrying capacity and management objectives for the area. Removing these dispersing animals does not affect hunting opportunities for sportsmen.

Biologists have also noted degradation in moose habitat as a result of the overpopulation.

For bighorn sheep, transplants restore sheep to their native ranges while creating new hunting opportunities for sportsmen. "We have historical documents from miners in the 1930s that mentions finding bighorn sheep skulls out there," said Kirt Enright DWR biologist, referring to the Newfoundland Mountains where the sheep were moved to in 2001.

The population has grown fast since they were first moved to the Newfoundland Mountains. Enright says research has helped DWR to determine movements and habitat use. "In just five years we reached our goal to have the population reach a point that would allow hunting," Enright noted. Two hunting permits were issued to sportsmen to harvest two rams on the Newfoundland unit for October 2006.

The growth and expansion of wild turkey populations in Utah could not have been done without the enthusiasm and energy of sportsmen like John Leonard, President of the Utah Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Indeed, sportsmen have played a crucial role through funding and manpower to successfully conduct these transplants.