Montana Groups working toward establishing a new bighorn sheep population in the Bridger Mountain Range
January 7, 2020
Montana Wild Sheep and Montana Wool Growers recently presented Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Martha Williams, Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MTFWP), and Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commissioners with a unified letter encouraging MTFWP to move forward with the additional scoping necessary to determine the feasibility of establishing a new bighorn sheep population in the Bridger Mountain Range.
“We salute this effort because it’s a win, win, win,” said Gray N. Thornton, Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) president and CEO. “Anytime we can expand and maintain healthy wild sheep populations, this valued resource benefits and people benefit. With the Bridger’s being in proximity to a major science-based university like Montana State, Bozeman, we also have the opportunity to further develop the necessary strategies to minimize the health impacts on wild sheep when sharing habitats with domestic populations.”
Montana’s Bighorn Sheep Conservation Strategy, established in 2010, lists several statewide objectives including genetic work, heard health monitoring strategies, implementing on-the-ground separation strategies and establishing five new viable and huntable populations by 2020. MTFWP has completed many of the objectives in the Conservation Strategy but has not completed a new viable population transplant since 2001 in the Greenhorn Mountains on the north end of the Gravely Range. The Bridger Range was first proposed as a suitable option in 1993 and again in 2013. Recent understanding of disease profiles as well as developing a scientific approach to the separation between wild and domestic sheep, make this transplant viable now.
“Wild sheep population conservation and enhancement doesn't happen by chance, it takes purpose and commitment,” Thornton said. “It also takes collaboration from all stakeholders. WSF couldn’t be more pleased that Montana Wild Sheep Foundation and Montana Wool Growers have joined in what should be a historic outcome for Montanans and our bighorn sheep. We are optimistic that together we can all make this happen.”