Utah's desert bighorn sheep make steady recovery

What began as 12 sheep in 1973 now a healthy herd of 500

Published: Sunday, Feb. 23 2014 3:35 p.m. MST

Schaible says transplants are a "calculated risk," but keeping relocations as close as possible to the source herd helps to minimize that risk.

If Zion's bighorn management proposal is approved, areas near the San Juan River, Nokai Dome and Pine Valley would be considered as possible locations for transplants, Schaible said.

The park's almost 3 million annual visitors need not worry about fewer opportunities to observe wildlife if desert bighorn are removed, Armstrong said.

"A periodic management plan to remove animals and place them elsewhere is not going to adversely affect wildlife observing for visitors," he said.

As a cooperative effort between Zion National Park and DWR, the management plan would be mutually funded. The majority of the funding, however, would come from the division's conservation permit program — a program that auctions hunting permits to members of sporting organizations and allocates the proceeds to wildlife conservation projects, Schaible said.

Monello said the proposal, as with all bighorn management plans, will consider the benefits and risks associated with the herd size before a management plan is implemented.

"No decisions have been made, and the plan will consider a variety of methods for managing disease," he said. "However, on the whole, trap-and-transplant programs with bighorn sheep have been highly successful over the last several decades at re-establishing bighorn throughout their range."

The National Park Service will conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed plan and is open to public comment until March 19.

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com

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