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WSF Applauds First Desert Bighorn Nursery Herd in Utah

December 6, 2021
posted in: News

Bozeman, Montana. December 3, 2021. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today applauded the efforts of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), the Nevada Department of Wildlife, the Utah Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the D. Gary and Mary Young Family for helping pave the way for the first nursery herd for desert bighorn sheep in Utah.
“This is the next major piece in the puzzle for desert bighorn conservation,” said Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. “It’s forward, out-of-the-box thinking that will help clear a major hurdle in the continued efforts to restore and expand populations of this iconic species.”
The nursery herd approach has been used successfully for bighorn sheep on Utah’s Antelope Island and Montana’s Wild Horse Island, and Texas and New Mexico for desert bighorns in the USA. Nursery herds have also been a key component of desert sheep restoration in Mexico, exemplified by WSF’s Mexico Initiative. The goal is to establish a protected, disease-free herd that will grow to the point of being able to supply animals for future restoration efforts in new suitable free-range habitats.
The Utah DWR found a willing partner in the Utah-based essential oil company, Young Living, on their Skyrider Wilderness Ranch by Hanna in Duchesne County. Eighteen hundred acres of the ranch will be set aside specifically for desert bighorns. Young Living co-founders D. Gary and Mary Young acquired Skyrider Wilderness Ranch in 2017.
“Trapping and transplanting is the most successful and fastest way to expand wild sheep populations back to their historical ranges, said Clay Brewer, WSF’s Conservation Director, and Bighorn Sheep Programs Lead. “The trouble is finding wild sheep stocks that have not been exposed to the diseases carried by domestic sheep and goats. There is no point introducing exposed sheep to unexposed populations or moving unhealthy sheep to establish new populations.”
The first trap and transplant to establish this new nursery herd is scheduled for June 2022 from healthy populations identified by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“Making wild sheep conservation work takes a village,” Brewer explained. “A special thank you needs to be made to Riley Peck, the once-in-a-lifetime species coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, our agency partners in Utah and Nevada, our friends at Utah WSF, and Young Living for their willingness to use some of their lands for this historic conservation action.”
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.

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