October 11, 2005
Wildlife officials to move some bighorn sheep from Boulder City
BOULDER CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada state wildlife officials are preparing to thin a herd of desert bighorn sheep that tread in a municipal park by capturing some and moving them to an area where hunting is allowed.
Biologist Patrick Cummings said about two dozen ewes and lambs would be culled from a herd of about 200 desert bighorn that water and graze at Hemenway Park. Plans call for moving them to the Virgin Mountains east of Mesquite.
"We want to assure the people of Boulder City who enjoy watching the bighorn sheep that we are not taking all of them away - we're just thinning the herd," Cummings said.
He said having 50 to 60 sheep a day descend from the rocky brown hills to the green park was "not desirable from a management standpoint."
The removal, tentatively set for Oct. 22, is expected to involve state wildlife workers and volunteers chasing the sheep from the park up the mountain to flat ground where nets will be shot from a helicopter to capture animals one at a time.
Each captured animal will be blindfolded and hobbled with leather straps, then placed in a sling to be moved in an upright position to shipping crates.
Sheep wrangler Jim Pope of Leading Edge Aviation of Lewiston, Idaho, said that if properly done, the netting operation is less stressful and safer for the animal than darts and drugs.
The sheep will be examined by a veterinarian and some will be fitted with tracking collars, said Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Geoff Schneider. The $15,000 cost of the tracking operation will be paid by the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, a Las Vegas-based sportsman's group that will pay the estimated $7,000 to move the animals in eight crates to their new home.
Schneider denied the move was to provide game for hunters, although hunting bighorns is allowed in the Virgin Mountains and not near Hemenway Park.
Cummings said officials think about 70 desert bighorn currently live in the Virgin Mountains, including eight rams. He said sheep placed in the remote area will have less contact with humans and urban dangers such as vehicles and domestic dogs. A new water system also has been installed in the Virgin Mountains area.
Schneider said 125 resident hunting licenses, each costing $120, and 19 nonresidential tags, each costing $1,200, will be issued to hunt mature bighorn rams at 20 locations throughout the state.
Only two licenses have been issued to hunt bighorn rams in the Virgin Mountains during the upcoming Nov. 12-Dec. 11 hunting season, he said.
Male lambs to be moved this month can't be hunted until they reach adulthood, Schneider said. No licenses are issued to hunt ewes.
The desert bighorn sheep is Nevada's state animal. More than 5,400 live in mountain ranges across the southern, central and western parts of the state.
The Clark County Habitat Conservation Plan, which was endorsed by the Sierra Club of Southern Nevada, allows for moving sheep to appropriate habitats.
Jane Feldman, Sierra Club conservation chairwoman in Las Vegas, said the relocation would help balance competing claims of man and animal on Hemenway Park.
"Something has to be done to address what is best for both," Feldman said.
One of my former students is a mugger for Jim Pope. I will tell him to be gentle.
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