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WSF: Collars for Nebraska Bighorns

May 31, 2022
posted in: Conservation, News

Bozeman, Montana. May 31, 2022. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and its Chapters and Affiliates flash-raised $160,200 to purchase GPS tracking collars for a scheduled trap and transplant project to enhance bighorn sheep populations in western Nebraska. The appeal came during the final evening of a two-day Summit held in San Antonio, TX, hosted by WSF Affiliate, the Texas Bighorn Society.

"Conservation is a well-used term with a clear and specific meaning," said Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. "The business of conservation, on the other hand, has many moving parts to be successful. It's not always clear day-to-day that what you're doing is impactful, but occasionally you get to be part of something magical. Raising this sum of money that quickly and directing it right to wild sheep was magical."

Nebraska was once home to abundant bighorn sheep populations. By all accounts, they were gone by the early 1900s. Repopulating the Cornhusker State began in 1981 by translocating surplus wild sheep from other states. Today there is an estimated population of 250-275 bighorn sheep.

Historically and today, the loss of wild sheep has been traced to disease die-offs from pathogen/disease transmission from domestic to wild sheep. The Summit delegates were given updates on what's being done to counter the threat of M.ovi to wild populations and shown a preview of a new film titled Transmission, produced by the Wild Sheep Society of British Columbia.

Thornton said, "Seeing the impacts from disease transmission, including sheep needing to be euthanized in this film to curb the spread of disease to other sheep, was emotional. When our delegates were presented with the need to purchase radio collars for the next herd-building translocation in Nebraska, hands shot up all over the room, making pledges. That's how we get more sheep on the landscape. We're also working hard to keep them there."

Prompted by WSF’s $50,000 seed grant and an appeal by WSF Chair of the Board Glen Landrus, WSF chapters and affiliates in minutes, raised $60,000 in $5,000 increments. 

Those pledging $5,000 grants include Utah WSF, Midwest WSF, Washington WSF, Arizona Desert Bighorn Society, Montana WSF, Texas Bighorn Society, Wild Sheep Society of BC, Oregon WSF, Alaska WSF, New Mexico WSF, California WSF, and Idaho WSF. Karen Gordon of Alaska also pledged $200.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission plans to capture 50-70 bighorns during the fall and winter of 2022 and 2023. The sheep will be tested for disease and fitted with tracking collars. Most will be released, but between 20-25 will likely be relocated to the Pine Ridge region of Nebraska's panhandle.

“On behalf of our members and the Nebraska Game and Parks, I really appreciate WSF’s leadership and their $50,000 seed money plus of all the chapter and affiliate delegate’s enthusiastic participation in assisting Nebraska in restoring bighorns in their native habitat,” said Craig Nakamoto, president of Iowa Foundation for North American Wild Sheep. “IA FNAWS is adding $50,000 to the $110,200 raised by WSF at the C&A Summit for a total of $160,200 to provide for the much-needed resources to set a pathway towards the success of bighorns in Northwest Nebraska.  I am simply amazed by the generosity of the WSF family!” added Nakamoto.

The trailer for the film, Transmission can be viewed at


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 10,000 worldwide, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep and other mountain wildlife and their habitats. WSF has raised and expended more than $140 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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