Healthy Nevada bighorn sheep shipped to Utah to help bolster population

Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 1:35 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - Nevada wildlife officials spent a few days in late June catching big horn sheep in nets and transporting them via helicopters.

“Our bighorn sheep population is doing very well here at the Valley of Fire, so some of the Big Horn Sheep are being caught and relocated to Utah,” Derrick Ewell with the Utah Division of Wildlife said.

It may seem like a bad day for these bighorn sheep, but they are going to a new home that is not only safe from predators but a place where they will help prop up the bighorn population in Utah.

“We have between a thousand and two thousand acre ranch with a high fence around the whole thing and we going to run them loose there to see how they do,” Ewell said.

Ewell is among a dozen people taking part in the operation. This year, 30 bighorn sheep, four rams, 26 ewes and lambs will be picked up and moved to Utah. The operation begins with the capture using a helicopter and a netgun. The chopper then brings them back for processing where staff and volunteers examine the animals, take blood and other samples and look at their overall health.

The bighorn sheep at the Valley of Fire are likely to be healthier than other herds around Southern Nevada. The operation is considered a win-win for both Utah and Nevada, according to Erin Wood with the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

“We’re trying to reduce the population in a natural way and it benefits Utah for them to have a clean source herd of animals,” Wood said.

The captured bighorn sheep will be driven to Utah and will be released at the enclosed Skyrider Wilderness Ranch once they get a clean bill of health, which takes about 24 hours in Nevada.

This is the first time this operation is taking place but it won’t be the last. Utah wants bighorn and Nevada is planning to accommodate them.

“Our goal is to do this for two more years, so 30 next year and 30 the following year.”

The Department of Wildlife conducts several operations to support bighorn sheep, including hauling water to Valley of Fire to make sure they’re hydrated.