Utah Wildlife Board Approves Mineral Mountains Desert Bighorn Transplant

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Mineral Mountain Transplant of Desert Bighorn Sheep

Bozeman, Montana – June 6, 2018: On May 31st, following five Regional Advisory Council (RAC) meetings around the state and more than two years of planning, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) proposal to transplant desert bighorn sheep into the Mineral Mountains of Beaver County, in an effort to repopulate historic bighorn range. The most likely source of transplant stock would be the Zion area of southern Utah or the Muddy Mountains of southern Nevada, where Utah and Nevada managers have collaborated to successfully capture and translocate bighorns multiple times over the past 45 years.

According to Utah Chapter Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) President Travis Jenson, “the Wildlife Board’s approval of DWR’s transplant proposal is great news”, adding, “Utah WSF and Utah DWR have worked tirelessly with public land grazing permittees, private land livestock producers, and Beaver County commissioners to minimize and mitigate impacts on agricultural operations in or near the Mineral Mountains, while pursuing our mission to restore bighorn sheep numbers in the state of Utah.”

“Despite claims to the contrary by the American Sheep Industry Association, Utah Wool Growers Association, and the Public Lands Council, the overwhelming body of published, peer-reviewed scientific literature documents that Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae resides in and may be passed from domestic sheep and goats to wild sheep,” stated WSF President and CEO Gray N. Thornton. Added Thornton, “As wild sheep advocates have done repeatedly, our Utah WSF Chapter went to great lengths to help UDWR locate and advance the Mineral Mountains transplant site which is not near domestic sheep public-land grazing allotments nor private-land domestic sheep producers. This Mineral Mountains transplant was appropriately approved by Utah’s Wildlife Board, and both UDWR and Utah WSF will work diligently to ensure no contact occurs between bighorn and domestic sheep. There is no threat to cattle producers or permittees from transplanted bighorn sheep.”

Consistent with the Utah statewide Bighorn Sheep Management Plan, DWR anticipates an initial transplant of approximately 50 bighorn sheep, mostly pregnant ewes, as early as fall 2018. Utah DWR intends to establish a herd of 175 desert bighorn sheep spread over 100,000 acres in the Mineral Mountains. Adult bighorns will be radio-collared, to facilitate post-release monitoring of bighorn movements and survival. Utah DWR is working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with federal land-management agencies, adhering to the Utah bighorn management plan.

According to Thornton, “this Utah transplant is an excellent example of putting and keeping wild sheep on the mountain, which is the purpose and mission of the Wild Sheep Foundation.” Added Thornton, “our Utah Chapter is again leading the way in helping their agency partners restore bighorn sheep to historic range, recognizing how reduced bighorn sheep numbers have been in the West over the past 150 years.”

WSF: Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO (406-404-8750) gthornton@wildsheepfoundation.org

Utah WSF: Travis Jenson, President (801) 641-5453 tjenson@xmission.com