Bighorn Sheep Relocation
January 15 and 16th, 2013 were big days for biologists from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), as they successfully relocated desert bighorn sheep from the Canaan Mountain Wilderness in Washington County, Utah, to the Moquith Mountain Wilderness Study Area, in Kane County, Utah. Staff from the BLM St. George Field Office, American Conservation Experience interns, and partners assisted with the project, which is part of on-going efforts by UDWR to balance bighorn sheep populations with available forage.
A helicopter was used to net small groups of sheep in the Canaan Mountain Wilderness and sling them to a staging area along State Route 9, near Zion National Park. Once on the ground, each sheep was examined by UDWR biologists who collected blood samples, body temperatures, removed ticks and put ear tags and tracking collars on each animal. After the examination, the captured ewes and rams were taken in a horse trailer to a release point in the Cottonwood Canyon, Moquith Mountain Wilderness Study Area, in Kane County.
The current bighorn sheep population in the Canaan Mountain Wilderness is descended from 12 animals that were transplanted from Lake Mead National Recreation Area in 1973. UDWR has continued to monitor the sheep population on Canaan Mountain, estimating that the population had grown to about 400 animals in 2011. Based on the carrying capacity of this habitat, the decision was made to relocate some of the bighorns to the BLM-managed Wilderness Study Area south of Kanab, where sheep densities are lower. Overall, the effort was a success, with 13 ewes, 5 lambs and one adult ram being safely captured and relocated to their new home.