Bozeman, Montana. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today acknowledged the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDGF) and the New Mexico Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation (NMWSF) for their efforts in establishing a new desert bighorn sheep herd in southwest New Mexico.
This past November, twenty-seven members of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) and a helicopter capture crew relocated 46 desert bighorn sheep from the Red Rock breeding area near Lordsburg to the Alamo Hueco Mountains in southwestern New Mexico. A total of 27 ewes and 19 rams were moved, and all but a few younger sheep were GPS collared.
“New Mexico is getting it done,” said Gray N. Thornton, President, and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. “We know our partners down there have been working on this big idea for quite some time. It’s a big sigh of relief when the job is done, and you get to watch the nucleus of a new herd sprint to the horizon of their new home. Kudos.”
The Alamo Hueco Mountains consist of 40 square miles of prime desert bighorn habitat. This smaller desert island range near the Mexico border is located approximately 10 miles south of the Big Hatchet Mountains in the New Mexico bootheel. Water resources include two BLM water catchments and several livestock tanks.
“Trapping and transplanting is the most successful and fastest way to return wild sheep populations back to their historical ranges, said Clay Brewer, WSF’s Conservation Director and Bighorn Sheep Programs Lead. “Now the challenge is keeping these wild sheep on the mountain, so this herd can grow and sustain itself. Disease and predation are what our friends in New Mexico will be keeping a close eye on.”
A previous Alamo Hueco translocation of 21 desert bighorns was done in 1986. Over the years, the herd numbers gradually declined and finally dropped to zero in 2001. It is assumed the major factor in this complete die-out was mountain lion predation.
The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. With a membership of more than 8,500 worldwide, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep and other mountain wildlife and their habitats. WSF has raised and expended more than $135 million on wild sheep habitat and population enhancements, education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations in North America from historic lows in the 1950-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today. www.wildsheepfoundation.org.