11/8/2012 6:01:00 AM Bighorn relocation aimed at herd health, research
Brian Wakeling, game branch chief from the Phoenix office of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, grabs a bighorn ram by the horns to guide it out of its pen and toward Mount Wilson, located nearby. All the sheep headed for the mountains and effortlessly ran up the slopes.
Two of the twenty-four bighorn sheep race to the mountains. An ear tag is visible on the sheep to the left.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department transplanted 24 desert bighorn sheep from a robust population near Oatman to a struggling population in the Mount Wilson Wilderness Area near Lake Mead.
Game and Fish personnel, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society members and other volunteers helped in the efforts to increase the herd at Mount Wilson.
Sheep numbers were historically much higher there than they are now, but various factors - such as disease - have led to declines in recent years.
The bighorns were captured with helicopters and net-guns. Their health was checked, they received medicine if needed, and all received ear tags to help scientists identify them.
They were loaded into a special trailer provided by the Bighorn Sheep Society.
This relocation effort serves to increase the herd size and will also provide biologists with valuable information. Half of the sheep were wearing radio collars when released and the animals will provide data to help scientists understand how the sheep are using that habitat and what challenges they face.
AZGFD is concerned about factors such as mountain lion predation, isolation of habitat and drought, and this research will inform later management efforts.