Study to determine affects cougars have on bighorn sheep
A new study to determine the effects cougars have on bighorn sheep will begin Dec. 16 when sheep captured on Antelope Island are released onto the Stansbury Mountains.
Here's how the study will work:
- A radio collar will be placed on each bighorn sheep that's captured on Antelope Island and released on the Stansbury Mountains. Over the next few weeks, researchers working for the Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University will try to capture all of the cougars in the area where the bighorn sheep are placed and place radio collars on the cougars.
- With the radio collars in place, biologists will track each sheep and each cougar to learn the impacts cougars might have on the sheep.
- If a cougar kills three bighorn sheep within a 365-day period, or two sheep within 90 days, that cougar will be killed by personnel with USDA-Wildlife Services.
"We know that cougars prey on bighorn sheep, and we expect to lose some of these sheep to cougars," says Craig McLaughlin, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "The cougars living on the release site are currently preying on deer. After sheep are placed in the area, will some of these cougars switch to killing sheep? If so, can the sheep population still grow in spite of losing some of the herd to cougars?
"This study will help us answers those questions and many other questions we have about cougars and bighorns."
Sheep population should do well
McLaughlin says 50 sheep will be placed on the Stansbury Mountains this winter. Usually only 25 bighorn sheep are placed in an area to start a new herd.
Because of the large number of sheep that will be placed on the mountain, and the ability biologists have to quickly remove any cougar that's preying too heavily on sheep, the new sheep population should do well.
"We think this new sheep population will do great, and we're excited about this study. We think it will provide us with some valuable information," he said.
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