Nevada last week gave 50 bighorn sheep to Utah to help reduce the stress level in Nevada's herds, which comprise about 10,000 animals statewide. State wildlife managers try to keep the sheep population near Henderson to between 250 and 300 to prevent the animals from having to compete for resources and from getting stress-related canker sores in their mouths and throats, said Doug Nielsen, a spokesman for the Nevada Division of Wildlife.
The sheep each had its blood, temperature and other vitals tested before making the trip to Utah.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has a goal of no more than 1,000 wild sheep throughout three units in the southern part of the state that include the Grand Staircase Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The sheep from Nevada will be used to try to increase the gene pool and create a bridge between existing herds that live among rocky cliffs and outcroppings but haven't mixed.
Diseases, habitat change, predation, unregulated hunting and other factors have decimated desert bighorn sheep populations across the West. Utah had herds of less than a dozen sheep each in the 1970s before it began bringing them in from other areas.
Nevada's capture and translocation program began in 1967 when the state had about 3,000 wild sheep. About 900 sheep from the population around Henderson have been sent elsewhere. Nielsen said the state makes sure the sheep are going to areas with a reliable water source and where they have a good chance of surviving. The populations can be supplemented as they grow.
The sheep were outfitted with radio collars and ear tags. Four of them have GPS devices that record the sheep's movement every six hours, but officials won't be able to see that data until the devices fall off in two years.
Reprinted in part from Las Vegas Review Journal