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Biologists move bighorn sheep

Biologists moved the small herd to avoid contact with domestic sheep

MOAB — Biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources moved 16 bighorn sheep from the Moab area to San Juan County recently.

Biologists move a bighorn sheep from the handling area to a trailer.

Biologists move a bighorn sheep from the handling area to a trailer.

Photo by Brent Stettler

The animals were relocated to prevent them from coming in contact with domestic sheep and goats. Domestic sheep often carry respiratory illnesses that can be lethal to wild bighorns. When a domestic herd comes in contact with a wild herd, these illnesses are easily transmitted. Even if only one bighorn becomes ill, the disease can spread through the entire herd.

The small herd that was relocated had been in close proximity to domestic animals in Castle Valley.

To capture the bighorns, a helicopter crew netted and airlifted the sheep to a trailer, which biologists then drove to San Juan County.

The crew moved four rams, seven ewes and five lambs.

The sheep were released in John's Canyon on the San Juan River. The canyon offers excellent bighorn habitat and a permanent water source.

The area already supports a population of wild sheep. Biologists say the transplanted sheep should thrive.

Much of the funding for the Feb. 26 move was provided by the Utah Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.

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