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Nevada Department of Wildlife helps create Utah's first desert bighorn sheep nursery

The Nevada Department of Wildlife to create Utah's first desert bighorn sheep “nursery”
Posted at 11:12 AM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 17:43:35-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Nevada Department of Wildlife is partnering with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to create Utah’s first desert bighorn sheep “nursery”.

This nursery will be located on approximately 1,800 acres of private land — the SkyRider Wilderness Ranch — near Hanna, Utah in Duchesne County.

NDOW and DWR biologists have captured approximately 30 desert bighorn sheep in the Muddy Mountains northeast of Las Vegas and transported them to the SkyRider Wilderness Ranch where they were released into an enclosed area with plenty water and a good habitat for bighorn sheep.

"We are really excited about this area and the opportunity it will provide to grow our desert bighorn populations in Utah," DWR Once-In-A-Lifetime Species Coordinator Riley Peck said. "There have been some disease issues with our bighorn sheep populations in the past, and this fenced area will provide a place for our herds to safely grow. This nursery herd allows us to have long-term viability of desert bighorn sheep in Utah. Whenever we have a need to supplement or create new populations in the state, we will have our own internal bighorn sheep population and can be self sufficient in maintaining healthy herds. The benefit of this nursery area cannot be overstated."

The overall goal of the project is to provide Utah with 26 ewes and lambs, and four rams with the hope that the animals will reproduce and help sustain Utah’s desert bighorn sheep population. Animals from the nursery will then be used to supplement existing herds or create new populations where needed.

This will also benefit the Muddy Mountain herd by reducing the sheep population, which will then reduce pressure on water sources and available forage already stretched because of the ongoing drought.

Staff and volunteers from both agencies processed the animals after they were captured by a helicopter crew. Wildlife health personnel examined each animal and assessed their overall health, provided preventative medical care, and treated any injuries.

"We will maintain a viable number of desert bighorn sheep on this property and the additional animals will be relocated to other Utah areas to help supplement those bighorn sheep populations or to start new herds," Peck said. "We are very appreciative of the generosity of the Nevada Department of Wildlife for giving Utah hundreds of bighorn sheep over the years to repopulate our herds."

The nursery can only support roughly 150 sheep, but in the long run, experts say the nursery will help supplement the 2,800 desert bighorn sheep and 1,500 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep currently in Utah.