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WSF: Managed by Science for BC & Yukon Dall’s Sheep

June 21, 2023

The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and its Chapters and Affiliates flash-raised $274,000 to fund a multi-jurisdictional Dall's sheep project as part of the Carcross Cross-Border Sheep Project initiative. The appeal came during the final evening of a two-day WSF Chapter & Affiliate (C&A) Summit held in Rapid City, South Dakota, hosted by the Midwest Chapter of WSF.

"Regulated hunting has proven its worth in driving the funding necessary to ensure a sustainable harvest that enhances and never threatens the game being hunted," said Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. "In this case, our Chapters and Affiliate Chapters united to fund a critical project that will provide decision-makers the data they need to make informed management and harvest decisions."

The Carcross area is home to a cross-border population of Dall's sheep, with management responsibilities shared between British Columbia (BC) and the Yukon Territory (YT). This population also overlaps the Carcross-Tagish First Nation's (CTFN's) territory, for whom wild sheep resources have played an important traditional and cultural role.

"Proactive reductions in harvest opportunities were implemented in BC after severe winters in 2010-2014 and 2018-2020," explained Kevin Hurley, WSF's VP of Conservation and Thinhorn Program Lead. "Recent information provided by the Nation suggests an apparent increase in the non-licensed harvest may be occurring. Bottom-line, as stewards of this resource, all stakeholders need to know more about this population.

Because of these collective interests, generating a better understanding of the range use of Dall's sheep in the area south-west of Carcross will help wild sheep managers from all three governments (YT, BC, CTFN) have meaningful conversations concerning the future management and harvest allocations of these cross-border sheep.

"Carcross is a three-year project beginning this fall and winter with getting GPS tracking collars on thirty sheep," Thornton added. "WSF got the ball rolling with a commitment of $50,000 seed money, and in ten minutes, our Chapters, Affiliates, and individuals in the room collectively amazingly pledged another $224,000."

$120,000 is needed in Year 1 to purchase GPS collars, helicopter netgun capturing the sheep, and collect and process health samples from each animal. Years 2 and 3 will require an additional $130,000 to maintain surveillance. The goal of the project is to collect vital information on current seasonal habitat use, range delineation, health, and factors that can affect population trends in this cross-border herd is of high importance and will help inform sound management.

"What an honor it was for our Midwest Chapter to host the annual Wild Sheep Foundation Chapters & Affiliates Summit," added Mike Bouton, Midwest Chapter Executive Director. "Wild Sheep Foundation delegates throughout North America with the same dedication, passion, and goals convening under one roof is powerful. All the incredible pledges truly demonstrated that during this year's Summit. WSF and its members continue to step up to the daunting challenges of wild sheep conservation. The Midwest Chapter couldn't be prouder to be part of this great organization's team that continues to Put and Keep Wild Sheep on the Mountain."

Representatives from 19 C&As attended from across the US, Canada, and Mexico. Prompted by WSF's $50,000 seed grant and an appeal by WSF Chair of the Board Glen Landrus, the pledges started rolling in:

$50,000 – Wild Sheep Society of BC
$25,000 – Midwest Chapter of WSF, Alaska WSF
$15,000 – Iowa FNAWS
$10,000 – Idaho WSF, Texas Bighorn Society, Washington WSF, Alberta WSF, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn
$5,000 – Montana WSF, Utah WSF, Oregon WSF, Wyoming WSF, California WSF, Eastern Chapter WSF, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Society
$1,000 – National Bighorn Sheep Center (WY), Eventgroove, Gray & Renée Thornton, Kevin Hurley, Clint Bentley & Cindy Alexander, Jeff and Jann Demaske & Family, Drs. Glen & Carolyn Pyne, Kyle & Melanie Stelter, Jim & Shaina Warner & Family, Jacobo Artee, Julie Chapman, Cory Jackson Family, Midnight Sun Outfitting, & Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance.

"Raising nearly a third of a million dollars of dedicated conservation funding in minutes was a magical thing to witness – but that is what the WSF family and our mantra of One Tent – One Campfire is all about," Thornton concluded. "Without the passion for wild sheep from sheep hunters, this Yukon/British Columbia cross-border sheep project, and other projects like it, would simply not happen. Throwing darts at a dartboard is not how WSF does things. That's not management by science."

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