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Montana proposes bighorn sheep relocation in Little Belt Mountains

Montana proposes bighorn sheep relocation in Little Belt Mountains

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Bighorn sheep could return to the South Fork Judith River in Montana’s Little Belt Mountains. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (Montana FWP) has proposed the first bighorn sheep transplant for the area since the 1960s – a prior effort that “failed to create a reproducing herd,” the Billings Gazette reports.

“This is an area where we have tried a relocation previously,” said Montana FWP Game Management Bureau chief Brian Wakeling.

Montana FWP is hopeful that, if approved, it would “jump-start” the state’s bighorn sheep and help re-establish a Little Belt herd. Reintroduction efforts aren’t taken lightly. In fact, it’s been 13 years since the agency completed a successful relocation effort – the last one took place in southwestern Montana. 

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“The bottom line is these (reintroductions) are tough,” said Brian Solan, executive director of the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation. “All of the easy ones have been done.”

This is due to disease issues – bacterial pneumonia has caused massive die-offs in areas where bighorn sheep mingle with domestic sheep – as well as “other environmental and physiological factors” as discerned from research conducted by Montana State University, according to the Billings Gazette

Montana FWP plans to relocate about 50 bighorn sheep from Hunting District 482 since that herd is 20% above objective. While there are still steps to complete before the relocation is underway, the agency hopes to conduct the capture this winter.

Montana FWP just released their Environmental Assessment regarding the proposal to reintroduce bighorn sheep to the Little Belt Mountains last week. To read the full PDF click here

The agency also plans on connecting with the Montana Wool Growers Association and other landowners and hunting and conservation groups to ensure everyone supports the relocation initiative. Then, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider public comment and decide whether to proceed during their next meeting on August 13.

Stay tuned to goHUNT for further updates.

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