Bighorn sheep get much-needed drink

Even by Nevada standards, this past winter and spring were both extremely dry. For people who don’t like rain that may seem like a good thing, but for wildlife that depends on the water precipitation brings to the desert, the ongoing drought is anything but good. This is especially true for the desert bighorn sheep that live in the rugged mountains of Southern Nevada, so the Nevada Department of Wildlife teamed up recently with a trio of conservation organizations to give the sheep a much-needed drink.

With financial assistance from the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, NDOW ferried more than 11,000 gallons of clean water into the Bare Mountains and the Last Chance range west of Mount Charleston. The water was carried by helicopter and dropped into water developments using a fire bucket.

Water developments, sometimes called water projects, are designed to catch rainwater and funnel it into storage tanks for use by animals. “They’re structures that collect water, either off of an artificial surface or a natural rock surface and store the water in tanks. And then it is regulated out to a drinker,” said Craig Stevenson, a habitat biologist with the NDOW.

In this instance, the water flows from three tanks into a drinker that is controlled by a float valve similar to those found on a toilet. As the water in the drinker is consumed, the valve opens and lets more water in. The capacity of the Bare Mountain project is 6,750 gallons.

“This is the first time since this project was built in 1993 that we have had a problem with the amount of water available in the storage tanks,” said Stevenson who also explained that habitat fragmentation is one of the major reasons water developments are needed. “There’s been some concern that we create an unnatural situation, and some concern that predators may use these water developments. The predators are also using the natural springs. One thing we can’t deny is that humans have had an effect on the landscape. It’s been fragmented. The way we are able to maintain these sheep populations is to augment the habitat. Here (the Bare Mountains) we added three water developments.”


Trophy fish caught since 1968 recorded

Trophy fish often end up in one of two places, according to Nevada Department of Wildlife fisheries biologist Mark Warren — in the record book or on a platter. “Unfortunately, a lot of state records have been eaten and not recorded,” said Warren.

Those fish that were recorded during 2006 appear in the just-released “Trophy Fish Program Stream and Lake Records.” It includes trophy fish recorded since 1968. The report is available on the agency’s Web site, www.ndow.org, as a PDF file.

The book can be a useful tool for anglers and biologists alike. “Record books like this can identify both hotspots and declines, information anglers can use,” said Warren. “With only 14 biologists in the field, it’s also a management tool for us — we can see if a water is producing big fish and even identify trends.”

The report details record-sized fish caught in Nevada: the largest fish of the year by species, all trophy fish entrants for the year, and a summary of record fish by water. Winning entries receive certificates from NDOW. State records receive a plaque.

David Lorain will receive a plaque for his 2006 state record-breaking three pound, one-ounce 16.1-inch white crappie the he pulled from Rye Patch Reservoir.

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