A small herd of desert bighorn sheep was released Oct. 24-25 in the Ranch Canyon area of the Mineral Mountains west of Beaver. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and other partnering organizations carried out the move. The translocation creates a herd in a location that has been void of bighorn sheep for many years and is part of a long-term effort to fill vacant wild sheep habitat, according to Faith Jolley, a UDWR spokesperson.
Fifty-one bighorns were captured from a healthy herd in Nevada via a helicopter and were then transported to Utah. The bighorn sheep were taken from expanding Nevada sheep populations that were nearing carrying capacity, which is the maximum number of sheep that could be supported by the habitat in the area. This made it possible for the extra sheep to be translocated to the stark, rocky landscape of the Mineral Mountains.
“Habitat in the project area, largely composed of granite, rocky spires and cliffs, is ideal but previously vacant sheep habitat,” DWR wildlife program manager Teresa Griffin said. “Bighorn sheep are uniquely adapted to inhabit some of the most rugged areas on earth.”
DWR has been involved in a conservation program over the last 40 years to restore bighorn sheep to their native habitat. This translocation is the culmination of collaborative efforts between DWR and the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Wild Sheep Foundation, Utah Farm Bureau, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, Beaver and Millard county officials, and Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, said Jolley in an email.
“Our translocation efforts are an attempt to restore bighorn sheep within their native range,” DWR regional supervisor Kevin Bunnell said.
Desert bighorns were first translocated into Utah in 1973 in Zion National Park. Since restoration efforts began, over 1,000 desert bighorns have been released in areas of historical habitat in Utah.
Bighorn sheep are managed as a once-in-a-lifetime hunting species in Utah. For more information on bighorn sheep management in Utah, read the Utah Bighorn Sheep Statewide Management Plan on the DWR website, said Jolley.