Arizona wildlife officials bring bighorn sheep back to historic habitats
PHOENIX – Arizona’s Game and Fish Department have released 60 bighorn sheep to re-establish the animal to two historic state habitats.
The department said Tuesday that 30 of the animals were moved to re-establish bighorn to the Picacho Mountains between Phoenix and Tucson.
Wildlife workers captured desert bighorns from the Silver Bell Mountains near of Tucson and Rocky Mountain bighorns from near the mining town of Morenci.
The group caught near Morenci was to be released near Payson.
Welcome back bighorns!
60 of AZ's bighorn sheep were returned to their historical ranges last week near Tucson & Payson. Translocated from robust populations NW of Tucson & near Morenci, these sheep will re-establish healthy herds in their native areas. #WildlifeWednesday pic.twitter.com/pYkqpopXp7
— Arizona Game & Fish (@azgfd) November 14, 2018
“Projects such as these help us to conserve and protect bighorn sheep by establishing subpopulations within their native ranges, which could help if there ever were a disease outbreak,” Amber Munig, the departmennt’s big game management supervisor, said in a statement.
“Such an outbreak wouldn’t have a devastating effect on the entire population.”
The moves required helicopters, net guns and staffers who safely grab the animals on the ground.
The animals were tagged and some were outfitted with a GPS tracking collar.
Dozens of support staff and volunteers partnered with Game and Fish on the project.
Mining company Freeport-McMoran, the U.S. Forest Service Apache-Sitgreaves and Coconino national forests, State Land Department, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, the federal Bureau of Land Management, the Central Arizona Project, volunteers and landowners assisted in the project.
The Associated Press contributed to this report