State bighorn sheep relocated near Gerlach
December 23, 2004
RENO – Thirty-eight bighorn sheep captured in Nevada have been taken to new homes.
The project is part of the state’s ongoing efforts to reintroduce bighorn sheep to their traditional range, said Kim Toulouse, a volunteer coordinator with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Eighteen sheep captured earlier this month from McGee Mountain near Denio were released in the Granite Range north of Gerlach.
Twenty others were captured in the Calico Mountains north of the Black Rock Desert and trucked to Idaho for that state’s reintroduction program, the agency said.
Bighorn sheep once were common in the mountains of the West. NDOW biologists estimate there might have been as many as 30,000 in Nevada before 1860, when westward emigrants began arriving in the state, said Mike Cox, a big-game biologist for the state wildlife department.
By 1960, populations fell to an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 animals.
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Scientists aren’t sure what caused the decline, but they generally blame loss of habitat, competition from livestock and diseases from domestic animals for which wild bighorn sheep had no immunity.
Nevada turned to other states and British Columbia to transplant new animals. One of the first releases took place in the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in 1967 with eight animals. Efforts began in earnest in the 1980s.