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49 bighorn sheep transplanted to Utah

BULLFROG — Forty nine bighorn sheep have a new home in southern Utah.

Bighorn sheep captured in Nevada wait to be transported to their new home in Utah.

Bighorn sheep captured in Nevada wait to be transported to their new home in Utah.

Photo by Mike Christensen

Using a helicopter, capture specialists captured the sheep near Lake Mead in Nevada. The sheep were then driven to Bullfrog, Utah in trailers. As soon as the sheep were certified "disease free," they were again flown by helicopter to an area east of Bullfrog.

Dustin Schaible, bighorn sheep biologist for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, says the area where the sheep were released is very remote. "Normally," he says, "we keep the sheep in horse trailers, drive them to the release site and open the door."

The area where the 49 sheep were released doesn't have any roads, but it's perfect sheep habitat. "With the assistance of the Utah Highway Patrol and its helicopter," he says, "we were able to fly the sheep into the remote area."

Before the sheep were lifted into the air, they were placed in specially designed metal boxes that were attached to a cable hanging from the helicopter. A pilot with the Utah Department of Public Safety then flew the sheep about 15 miles into the red-rock canyons that surround Lake Powell.

"The boxes are designed to hold about three sheep each," Schaible says. "As soon as we opened the door, the sheep took off and ran into the canyons to find a new home."

Biologists released the sheep on an area known as the Kaiparowits bighorn sheep management unit. The 49 additional sheep will add to the herd's genetic mix.

The transplant project was funded by hunters through dollars generated from the sale of bighorn sheep hunting permits.

For more information, call the DWR's Cedar City office at 435-865-6100.

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