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SPRINGDALE — Bighorn sheep populations are thriving in Southern Utah, and initiatives to maintain healthy herds are underway by wildlife advocates.
In November, 17 bighorn sheep were captured and GPS-collared in Zion National Park to monitor population density.
The effort, performed collectively by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Zion National Park, the Zion Forever Project and the Utah chapter of Four North American Wild Sheep, was an effort to reduce the risk of a catastrophic pneumonia outbreak.
“Contact between wild and domestic sheep can infect a bighorn sheep herd, resulting in large scale die-off and years of reduced lambing,” a news release by Zion Forever Project states. “One of the risk factors for die-offs to occur is a dense and expanding bighorn sheep herd like the herd living in Zion.”
A number of sheep from the herd in Zion will be captured beginning Tuesday and transplanted to the San Juan County area to bolster the sheep herd there, while also reducing density of the Zion herd and promoting genetic diversity of animals throughout the state.
The technically challenging capture and transplant of the sheep will be conducted by a helicopter crew, navigating aircraft above the park’s vertical sandstone features as animals are netted from the air.