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Trap & Transplant


Over the past 100 years, approximately 22,000 wild sheep have been translocated in the U.S. and Canada, in almost 1,500 separate transplant operations. Since inception, WSF and our network of Chapters and Affiliates have supported and participated in hundreds of wild sheep transplants, providing funding, manpower, and critical political support to assist state and provincial agencies with wild sheep restoration efforts.


Releasing a bighorn ewe in Arizona


Historically, the distribution of wild sheep in North America extended from northern Alaska, Yukon, and Northwest Territories southward through British Columbia and Alberta, Canada to northern Mexico, and from the Pacific coast as far east as western North Dakota, western South Dakota, western Nebraska, and western Texas. Reliable population estimates of wild sheep in North America prior to the 1800s are not available, but numbers in the hundreds of thousands have been reported. Through time, the numbers and distribution of thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli) are thought to have remained stable. Following settlement of western North America, however, bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) numbers declined rapidly and that species was extirpated from much of its historic range. 
Releasing a bighorn ewe to a new location in ArizonaTranslocations have played an integral role in wild sheep restoration and management. Most jurisdictions that manage bighorn sheep view translocations as a technique necessary for restoring those specialized ungulates to historic habitat, establishing new populations within suitable, but unoccupied habitat, and augmenting existing populations. However, translocation is not a widely used practice in thinhorn sheep conservation. Historic records indicate fewer than 10 translocations of thinhorn sheep have occurred in the past, and none have occurred across jurisdictional boundaries (i.e., Alaska, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, or British Columbia). 
Use of translocations for restoring wild sheep began in 1922 with the capture of 20 bighorns in Alberta, Canada, and subsequent release of 12 animals in Montana and 8 animals at Custer State Park, South Dakota. By 2015, at least 1,460 separate projects have resulted in the translocation of more than 21,500 bighorn sheep in the United States and Canada combined. Nevada leads all jurisdictions with more than 4,000 wild sheep translocated through 174 projects. More than 1,300 wild sheep have been translocated across international boundaries from Canada and Mexico into 14 United States jurisdictions. The roots of today’s bighorn populations in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas can be traced entirely to translocations. These translocations have resulted in successful establishment of self-sustaining populations on many historic ranges, increased numbers and genetic diversity of individual populations, and expanded ranges of existing populations. 
For more detailed information, download Records of Wild Sheep Translocations. The intent of this project, produced by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Wild Sheep Working Group, is to record and archive all known captures and translocations within the 19 United States and Canadian jurisdictions inhabited by wild sheep, and make this information available in a single document. Translocation records verifying exported animals, imported animals, and those occurring entirely within each jurisdiction are summarized for each state, territorial, or provincial jurisdiction. 

Trap & Transplant Resources

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Released in 2024 – Wild Sheep Capture & Handling Guidelines, 2nd Edition.

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For more information, download Records of Wild Sheep Translocations: United States and Canada, 1922-Present. Note, translocations captures are on-going projects with data changes almost daily. This 2015 document is the most current "published", comprehensive summary.
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