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Utah moves forward with bighorn relocation to Mineral Mountains


Desert Bighorn Sheep
Photo credit: Dreamstime

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.

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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. 


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Trail K.
Trail K. - posted 11 months ago on 06-20-2018 10:39:28 am
goHUNT Team

@ Jalen J

The process to reestablish wild sheep, or any wildlife population for that matter, is often complex. When you take everyones interests into account the water can get really muddy. In talking with close friends who work for the UDWR I believe that they did due diligence in evaluating the whole proposal and I am personally also excited to see a new sheep population established.

Concerning whether or not the Minerals will ever be converted to a limited entry deer unit...I do not think that it will. If you think about the Minerals, it fairly summer range limited, mostly traditional winter range. There will always be a decent resident herd but there is not the quantity and quality of habitat to produce a robust population of deer there. I think the UDWR looks at it as a trade off, if you convert it to a limited entry unit very few people will get a chance to hunt because the habitat limits the amount of deer that area can produce. Sure it would grow some great bucks, but very few would get a chance to hunt. On the flip side, if you leave it as part of the general season unit then more people will get a chance to hunt it and the number of deer is probably going to remain about the same because that's what the habitat can support. At least that's what I believe and the justification I have heard from the UDWR.

Jalen J. - posted 11 months ago on 06-16-2018 11:59:46 am

The woolgrower opposed to this runs his sheep a unit over eventually they may migrate that way but when placed they will be 1 town and 2 mountain ranges away I'm a local and love that they are doing this. Do you think they will be making the mineral mtns it's own unit and making it limited entry for deer? They killed all the elk on there to help the deer quality but have over hunted it for years the trophy quality is so poor my family has switched to southwest desert where there is way less deer in a bigger unit because the trophy quality is so much better.

Mark E. - posted 11 months ago on 06-06-2018 02:34:47 pm

I wonder if a huntable population of Bighorns would outweigh the woolen sheep in terms of economics?