In November 2013, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AGFD) began reintroducing desert bighorn sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. If successful, this effort would mark the sixth mountain range in which the Arizona Game and Fish Department has established a naturally reproducing population of bighorn. SCI Foundation is a proud partner on the project that looks to establish a self-sustaining population of desert bighorn sheep. Last week, SCI Foundation Conservation Committee Members had the opportunity to view the reintroduced sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains and talk with biologists and researchers about the project.
Understanding how these sheep use their environment and interact with predators is central to their conservation. The biologist and researchers that work on this project were able to explain how they track and monitor the sheep and what research questions they are attempting to answer. The impacts of mountain lion predation and habitat use of the sheep are among the management questions that they are addressing.
Recent sheep mortalities have revealed that three ewes suffered from respiratory infections. The AGFD is investigating the source of the infection. Also, there have been several fires in the bighorn’s range. The fires have been allowed it to burn for the benefit of fire-adapted vegetation communities. These fires are improving forage for bighorn sheep. They are already seeing the sheep begin to move into some of the burned areas.
SCI Foundation would like to thank the Arizona Game and Fish Department for providing the opportunity to view the sheep! The Conservation Committee Members enjoyed the experience and looks forward to seeing the bighorn population flourish in the Catalina’s. More importantly there are once again bighorns in Tucson!