Despite vocal opposition from Utah’s woolgrowers, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) will move forward with its plan to relocate bighorn sheep to the Mineral Mountains. This week, the proposal was approved, which means that this fall UDWR will release roughly 50 bighorn sheep with the overall “goal of establishing a herd of 175 animals,” The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
As goHUNT reported earlier this week, local woolgrowers were opposed to the relocation because it could displace grazing allotments on public land to keep domestic sheep and wild sheep apart. Bacterial pneumonia, which has caused massive die-offs in wild herds across the West, is linked to bighorn sheep interaction with their domestic counterparts. Only one board member – a local cattleman – voted against this bighorn sheep proposal.
While the woolgrowers’ worries are justifiable, UDWR Director Mike Fowlks says that the “agency will take every precaution, including lethal removal” to keep bighorn sheep away from grazing allotments.
“If those [wild] sheep leave the core area and get into domestics, they are going to die,” he told the ranchers at the meeting in Salt Lake City, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “… We are not going to allow that conflict to occur.”
This fall, the first 50 bighorn sheep will be released near Granite Peak–the highest point in the Mineral Mountains, which is comprised primarily of public land. This is so the bighorn sheep are comfortable with their new location.
“They will go where they feel safe and that’s why they want steep rocky escape terrain,” Jace Taylor, UDWR bighorn sheep, and mountain goat program coordinator told The Salt Lake Tribune.