Release of 32 bighorn underway-

This release by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and private individuals has taken 20 years to be accomplished. The stock for the release came from Nevada to the south around Stonewall Mountain near Tonapah. They are desert, not Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.  Bighorn are now back in the Virginia range for the first time since the late 19th century.

With bighorn sheep under siege from the diseases spread by domestic sheep, most any release of bighorn sheep is vital and welcome, although this release onto Clark Mountain near Reno seems to have been opposed by some supporters of the feral horses in the area. Last winter almost 5% of the West’s bighorn sheep population perished from diseases spread to them from domestic sheep (mostly pneumonia).

There are many feral horses in the Virginia Mountains and some advocates for these horses opposed the reestablishment of bighorn because they fear there will be pressure remove feral horses, kill resident cougar, and take water from the horses (they fear that springs will be fenced).

It is odd that some people would oppose restoring a small number of rare native wildlife because they are so fond of feral livestock, although a spokesperson for the horses argued the area never had desert bighorn, but California bighorn instead. Nevada Department of Wildlife said it wasn’t clear what sub-species of bighorn the area originally held.

With the elevation of  Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) as the House Appropriations Committee for Dept. of Interior appropriations chairmanship and his amendment to let disease ridden domestic sheep kill bighorn with no recourse available to the government, many think projects like this are desperately needed. We can expect numerous anti-wildlife measure from him in coming years unless the opposition party (Democrats) retake the majority in the House of Representatives.

There are a number of stories in other media on the release, e.g., Historic release: Bighorn sheep back in the Virginia Range. Reno Gazette Journal.

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Information from NDOW on last winter’s bighorn sheep dieoff.


About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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October 2011


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey