50 bighorn sheep in Nevada to be moved to Utah

As many as 50 desert bighorn sheep will be moving from Nevada to Utah under a joint effort by wildlife officials in the two states.

Biologists from the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources plan to capture the animals in the Muddy and Black mountain ranges northeast of Las Vegas on Monday and Tuesday, and release them in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

“This is an opportunity for us to assist Utah in their efforts to restore desert bighorn sheep to historic habitats where herds were extirpated or killed off over a century ago,” said Mike Cox, state big game biologist for the Nevada agency. “It will also help us reduce the Muddy Mountain sheep population to a level consistent with available water sources.”

It will be the second such capture-and-release operation in a year. In October 2012, the two agencies moved 50 Nevada sheep from the River and Muddy mountain herds and released them in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah.

“Projects like this are indicative of the cooperative relationship between western state wildlife agencies and our ability to work together for the overall conservation of species like the desert bighorn,” said Pat Cummings, big game biologist for Southern Nevada.

Since it began in 1967, Nevada’s trapping and relocation program has enabled the Nevada Department of Wildlife to re-establish bighorn sheep populations in much of its historic range. The state’s overall bighorn population has grown from about 3,000 to more than 11,000 during that time.

The agency also plans to trap an additional 35 to 50 sheep in the Bare Mountains near Beatty, about 100 miles north of Las Vegas, and relocate them to the northwest in the Excelsior Mountains and Candelaria Hills near the Esmeralda-Mineral county line.

It also will test sheep herds in the Eldorado, McCullough and Spring mountain ranges to determine whether sheep in those areas have been exposed to a pathogen associated with a pneumonia outbreak in the River Mountains.