Montana Wild Sheep Restoration Effort a Success
The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), Montana WSF (its state chapter), domestic sheep producers, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have been working for the past several years to reintroduce bighorn sheep into new suitable habitats. Recently, fifty bighorn sheep we helicopter captured in HD482, south of the Missouri Breaks, and safely released into the Little Belts.
"In the year of Covid, wild sheep conservation doesn't stop – nor does WSF, and now we all have something to celebrate," said Gray N. Thornton, President, and CEO, Wild Sheep Foundation. "WSF is proud to work hand in hand with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Outdoor Fund, and many other partners to restore bighorn sheep to an area where they have been absent since the early 20th century.
This effort showcases WSF's successes in partnering with agencies, industry, and chapter and affiliates to help restore and manage wild sheep and other wildlife throughout the world. It is how we put and keep wild sheep on the mountain."
To help finance some of the costs, WSF conducted a crowd-funding campaign, which welcomed anyone to participate in this historic initiative. The Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Outdoor Fund also stepped in and matched donations dollar for dollar, raising over $130,000 in just four weeks to support this transplant and another one scheduled to occur in SW Montana in January.
Here's what our partners had to say:
"Restoring bighorn sheep, a true icon of the west, to their native home is a collective accomplishment worth celebrating. This relocation marks a tremendous leap forward for all who love wildlife and our wild places, and we look forward to following the continued growth of bighorn sheep herds in Montana. We are grateful for conservation partners like the Wild Sheep Foundation and to our customers who directly supported this effort by rounding up their purchases in our stores and online." – Bob Ziehmer, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Senior Director of Conservation.
"Today, a newly restored bighorn sheep herd exists in Montana. This transplant into the Little Belt Mountains was the largest step forward in Montana bighorn sheep restoration made in nearly 20 years. The primary driver of this effort was the collaborative efforts of wildlife agencies, domestic sheep producers, landowners and wild sheep conservationists. Specifically, the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 4 team spearheaded this effort to bring all stakeholders together. This was a huge step in bighorn sheep restoration and will serve as a playbook for how things should be done in the future. Working collaboratively to find solutions that have positive benefits to the Montana landscape for everyone is how we do things here." – Brian Solan, Executive Director, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation.
"The Little Belt bighorn sheep restoration effort is the first attempt to establish a new herd in Montana since 2003. We thank our partners, including Wild Sheep Foundation, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, Montana Wool Growers Association, individual domestic sheep producers and other landowners, industry and other organizations, along with Montana's sportsmen and women for providing the support required for achieving an effort of this magnitude. This is certainly a testament of what can be accomplished when groups such as Montana's wild and domestic sheep interests are willing to work cooperatively towards a common goal – Quentin Kujala, Montana FWP Chief of Staff.
Another trap and transfer project is scheduled for January to reintroduce bighorn sheep into Montana's Tendoy Mountain Range.
The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. With a membership of more than 8,500 worldwide, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep and other mountain wildlife and their habitats. WSF has raised and expended more than $135 million on wild sheep habitat and population enhancements, education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations in North America from historic lows in the 1950-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today. www.wildsheepfoundation.org.