ANTELOPE ISLAND – The drought across the Western United States is now impacting wildlife at Antelope Island, in ways not seen in decades. It's bad enough biologists are considering something they have never done before; flying fresh water into the wilderness.
Experts say the bison on the island have what they need in the form of a 100,000-gallon tank installed a few years ago.
The biggest concern is for the herd of roughly 30 bighorn sheep on the island. The sheep typically like to stay in the steep terrain where a lot of fresh water resources are already dried up. This herd, brought to the island in January of 2020, immediately used man-made guzzlers for their water, which Wildlife Biologist Steve Bates says have now dried up.
That's why biologists with the state park and the Division of Wildlife Resources are considering flying a fresh supply here with a helicopter, something they've never considered before.
"This is something new to us out here," Bates said, "And for the past 20 years there's always been sufficient moisture here on the island to carry the wildlife through."
Bates says worst case, there will likely be enough spring water to last through the season, but he doesn't want the Bighorn to forget the guzzlers as a primary source.
"And so this is kind of a proactive preventive means," said Bates.
For the past 20 years there's always been sufficient moisture here on the island to carry the wildlife through.
–Steve Bates, wildlife biologist
Now the challenge is figuring out the best way to fly a large amount of water out to an island surrounded by salt water. It will likely be a few weeks before that happens. Bates says he is also concerned about the springs here, because even if we do have heavy snowfall next year, it typically takes weeks, even months before we see that flow come into the springs.