5 months ago
TUCSON - Arizona Game and Fish have released the photos of the newly discovered Bighorn lamb.
A biologist for the relocation project observed the newborn lamb with its mom on March 28.
The lamb is the fourth addition to the population of Bighorns that were relocated to the Catalinas last year.
"We are excited by the newest addition to the reintroduced bighorn sheep population in the Catalinas. Each lamb represents a success for the project and promise for the future of the herd," Randy Serraglio, Center for Biological Diversity.
5 months ago
TUCSON - Game and Fish has reported a mountain lion has killed another relocated bighorn sheep.
This is the 16th death so far of the 31 sheep who were moved from a mountain area near Yuma to the Catalinas.
The dead ewe was found Sunday, according to the Game and Fish website.
Game and Fish continue to track the remaining sheep population, an effort designed to bring the species back to the Santa Catalinas.
5 months ago
TUCSON - Arizona Game and Fish have discovered two more deaths in the group of relocated bighorn sheep.
Of the 30 bighorn that are being tracked, 15 have been reported dead.
Officials said a mountain lion killed the ewe they found in the Catalinas Sunday. Hunters tracked and killed the offending mountain lion.
The 15th death was discovered on Tuesday, when a dead ram was found. The cause of the ram's death is under investigation. Out of the 6 relocated rams, 1 is still alive.
6 months ago
TUCSON - Game and Fish have discovered the 13th death in population of relocated bighorn sheep.
The update on the Arizona Game and Fish website says the adult bighorn ram was killed by a mountain lion.
Of the 17 sheep still alive, 2 are adult males.
Game and Fish officials pursued the mountain lion but were unable to hunt it, a release detailed.
"Pursuit was initiated and the lion reached steep and rocky terrain, where it remained while the hounds were present and darkness approached. Due to the steepness the situation proved too risky to remove the cat. Pursuit was resumed the following morning, but the lion was not re-located."
Game and Fish's strategy is to selectively hunt mountain lions that prey on bighorn rather than generally cull the population. So far 2 of the mountain lions have been hunted.
Biologists on the ground are enouraged with news of the sheep banding together to form larger groups. Game and Fish says they're less likey to be preyed upon.
6 months ago
TUCSON - A third bighorn lamb has been spotted in the Catalina Mountains, according to an update posted to the Arizona Game and Fish website.
The lamb was spotted on the same day Game and Fish officials confirmed a 12th death in the relocated group of bighorn.
"The Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed a bighorn sheep mortality Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The ram's cause of death is under investigation," the alert on the website said.
A group of 31 sheep were moved from a mountain range near Yuma last year in an effort to restore the species in the Catalinas.
6 months ago
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - State wildlife officials say an 11th bighorn sheep has died in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, where 31 bighorns were released late last year.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department reported Saturday that the ram's corpse was found Wednesday and the animal had been killed by a mountain lion.
Game and Fish officials say a mountain lion also killed a bighorn ewe, whose remains were found Feb. 7.
The deaths come just a few days after the agency announced the sighting of two lambs, the first in the area in a generation.
Thirty-one bighorn were released in Catalina State Park on Nov. 18 after relocation from mountains in western Arizona.
The department says hikers should avoid the sheep recovery area during the lambing season, which runs January through April.
6 months ago
TUCSON - Arizona Game and Fish says they've spotted the first lambs born to the newly relocated bighorn sheep.
A Game and Fish biologist saw the 2 lambs in the Catalina Mountain's Pusch Ridge Wilderness. The lambs were close to their mothers-- who were released in Catalina State Park on Nov. 18.
Here's a picture of one of the lambs:
Bighorn sheep have low reproductive rates, Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart said in a release. Bighorn ewes only give birth to one lamb a year, unlike their relatives who regularly deliver twins, Hart said.
Only 20 to 25 percent of these lambs make it past their first year.
The bighorn's lambing season is January through April.
The sheep were captured and moved from a mountain region near Yuma in an effort to restore the bighorn sheep population in the Catalinas.
The news of the lambs comes after the discovery of the tenth death of the relocated sheep.
6 months ago
TUCSON - Arizona Game and Fish says they've confirmed a tenth bighorn sheep has been found in the Santa Catalina Mountains.
The cause of death is under investigation, Arizona Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart said.
The news of the death was posted to the Arizona Game and Fish website, http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/bighornSheep.shtml.
So far, Game and FIsh have attributed 8 of the bighorn deaths to predators.
6 months ago
TUCSON - A ninth bighorn sheep has been found in the Catalina Mountains.
Arizona Game and Fish says the adult ewe was found on Jan. 31 in the Pusch Ridge wilderness. The ewe was pregnant at the time, Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart said in a release.
The ewe was killed by a predator, although it wasn't clear what type.
"The evidence indicates that a cat, perhaps a young mountain lion or a bobcat was
likely involved, but due to rains overnight, investigators failed to find fresh tracks or a trail," Hart said.
Game and Fish said the predator did not return to the sheep to feed again so that animal was not "removed." Game and Fish have been tracking and killing mountain lions who they believe to be preying upon the transplanted bighorns. Hart says it's an attempt by Game and Fish to restore the once thriving population of bighorn sheep in the Catalinas.
The death is the ninth so far since the release of 31 bighorns into the Catalinas. Eight of those death were from predators.
Of the 31 bighorn sheep, 30 were fitted with GPS collars that regularly sends back location data to Game and Fish officials.
Hart says that as of Feb. 2, 21 of the 30 collared sheep were known to be alive.
Hart cited challenges with interpreting the location data sent by the collars.
The technology strapped around the sheep's neck requires an up link to a GPS satellite, which is hindered by the sheep's environment.
Cliff faces, canyon walls and otherwise rugged country interfere with the wireless connection between the collar and the satellite.
7 months ago
TUCSON - Three more bighorn sheep have been killed by mountain lions, Game and Fish reported Friday.
These last two deaths bring the population of relocated sheep to 22, Arizona Game and Fish spokesman Mark Hart said in a release.
A total of 8 have died since their release into the Pusch Ridge wilderness on Nov. 8. Of those deaths, 7 have been as a result of mountiain lions.
Game and Fish have so far killed two mountain lions they believe to be responsible for the sheep deaths.
Here are the details of the 8 deaths, according to a release sent by Arizona Game and Fish:
On January 15, 2014, an adult ewe (ID #64) was found on the border of Habitat Blocks 31 (fair) and 32 (poor). This is just south and west of Ski Valley and the location was within the Aspen fire burn area. The area is characterized by substantial rock outcroppings and borders thicker vegetation. This sheep had been in this area since shortly after the release. Investigators concluded that the cause of the mortality was due to predation. Pursuit of the offending mountain lion was initiated but the lion was not located.
On January 11, 2014, an adult ewe (ID #45) was found in Habitat Block 40 (fair). In general, the area was characterized by steep cliffs and rock outcroppings. Dense oak and grass sporadically covered the ravine where the sheep was discovered. Investigation of the scene determined that the cause of death was predation by a mountain lion. There was a significant delay in locating the carcass due to collar satellite uplink issues. A preliminary investigation was done on foot on January 5, 2014. Although investigators were close to the last known location and subsequent mortality location, they were unable to get a signal or find the sheep, suggesting that the sheep had left the area which was later determined to not be the case. The sheep carcass was likely moved, perhaps while it was fed upon by a lion, and the collar was eventually positioned in a way that allowed for a successful uplink of locational data. Once a satellite transmission was received it was apparent that the sheep was dead and had been in the same location for several days. Due to the time lapse, pursuit of the lion was not initiated.
On January 8, 2014, an adult ewe (ID #61) was found on the south face of the Catalina Mountains in Esperero Canyon, on the border between habitat blocks 59 and 60. These blocks both ranked as fair because of the housing component in each although the terrain is steep and rugged. On the hike to the site, a Department investigator discovered lion scat with what is believed to be sheep hair in it, estimated to be approximately 2-3 days old and lion tracks heading towards Tucson. Mountain lion sightings are common in the foothills and other parts of Tucson close to wildlife corridors such as the Pantano wash. Assessment of the mortality location confirmed that the sheep had been killed by a mountain lion. In considering the totality of the kill location and the age of the kill, the Department determined that pursuit of the offending lion would likely be futile so it was not initiated.
On January 3, 2014, an adult ewe (ID #46) was found south of the Biosphere, in an area characterized by low elevation hills and mesquite scrub. This area is rated as "fair" (block 8) according to the Cunningham/Hansen habitat suitability model. When this ewe was released on November 18th, 2013, she moved north and approached Highway 77 before turning southeast and settling in near the Biosphere. Based on GPS locations, this ewe appeared to be alone and did not demonstrate extensive movement. Managers checked on this sheep 3 weeks ago and observed that it was in good condition. After receiving a mortality signal from the collar, the ensuing investigation concluded that the ewe had been killed by a mountain lion. Subsequent pursuit of the lion by the Department's houndsman was unsuccessful and discontinued due to lack of certainty that the offending lion could be identified.
On December 9, 2013, an adult ewe (ID #38) was found in low quality habitat (block 40) characterized by thick vegetation that likely limited her ability to detect predators. Investigators determined that the sheep had been killed by a mountain lion. Pursuit of the lion was unsuccessful.
On December 1, 2013, an adult ewe (ID #36) was discovered dead in habitat characterized by low elevation hills and mesquite scrub, and rated as "fair" (block 38). The ewe was in the later stages of pregnancy. On-scene investigators concluded that the ewe had been killed by a mountain lion. The male lion was removed by Department personnel in accordance with the Mountain Lion Management Plan developed explicitly for this project, which allows for the removal of specific lions that have preyed on sheep, with the exception of females with kittens or solitary kittens. The mountain lion's stomach contents confirmed conclusively that the lion had fed on the ewe.
On November 30, 2013, a yearling ewe (ID #50) was discovered in thick vegetation, rated as "fair" (block 41). The ewe was found cached in a small ravine. During the investigation of the scene, the investigating Wildlife Manager was stalked by a mountain lion that remained in close proximity. Fearing for his and the public's safety, the Wildlife Manager was forced to kill the male lion in self defense. An investigation of the sheep carcass and the mountain lion's stomach contents confirmed conclusively that the lion had fed on the ewe.
On November 27, 2013, an adult ram (ID #52) was found in the higher elevations in an area
characterized by dense Manzanita bushes and rated as "fair" (block 39). The ram had been scavenged by
a bear and all indicators pointed towards capture myopathy as the cause of death. Every effort is made
during the capture process to minimize capture related complications, including monitoring and
controlling body temperature, minimizing handling and providing oxygen to the animal, all of which
helps to avoid lactic acid build-up. Capture myopathy is associated with a build-up of lactic acid in the
muscle tissue that can lead to heart failure. Myopathy generally occurs during the first two weeks after
animals are transplanted and released, but lasting effects of capture myopathy can be observed up to four
weeks post release.
9 months ago
TUCSON, Ariz. - One of the more than 30 Desert bighorn sheep released Nov. 18 to the Santa Catalina Mountains was found dead Wednesday by Arizona Game and Fish Department staff along the eastern edge of Sutherland Ridge near the headwaters of Romero Canyon.
The discovery was made after a mortality signal from the sheep's GPS radio collar was detected during an aerial survey. All but one of the bighorn sheep were fitted with the collars.
What caused the death of the 4-year-old ram, captured Nov. 16 in the Trigo Mountains near Yuma, is currently under investigation. Samples were collected from the carcass for analysis.
Possible causes are injuries that may have occurred during or after capture, including myopathy or acute acidosis cause by stress that can lead to heart failure. Other possible causes are a fall, a predator or disease.
Toxicology results from the ram are expected by Friday, Dec. 6, or early the following week. "Any time we undertake a translocation of wildlife, mortalities are to be expected," said Regional Supervisor Raul Vega of Game and Fish in Tucson. "Our intent is to minimize mortalities within this population by all available means."
Since being released approximately one mile up the Romero Canyon Trail at Catalina State Park, the bighorn sheep have dispersed in the mountains from near Biosphere 2 to the west branch of Sabino Canyon, with most located in and around Pusch Ridge, their historic range.
The dead ram was one of six adult males released. The population includes 24 ewes and one yearling ram.
The overall objective of the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project is to restore a healthy, viable and self-sustaining bighorn sheep population that coexists in natural balance with a healthy native predator population in a naturally functioning ecosystem.
9 months ago
TUCSON - Thirty one Bighorn sheep that were relocated to the Catalina mountains Monday are thriving, according to Arizona Game and Fish officials.
Their movements are being tracked using GPS collars. News 4 Tucson was given insight into their first few hours on their new turf.
If you live in, or visit Pusch Ridge grab your binoculars, you're in for a sight.
Mark Hart with Arizona Game and Fish says, "Most of them are moving towards Pusch Ridge where we wanted them to go in the first place."
GPS radio collars show the heard is separating. The majority are headed to Pusch Ridge, another group is in Kachina Trail half-way to Summerhaven.
"And we've got one, for reasons unknown that's heading to Sabino Canyon," says Hart.
Tuesday night a party was held at the Hilton el Conquistador Resort. The animal's release is a dream come true for those fighting to bring Bighorn sheep back to the historic mountain range.
In the late 90's there used to be between 75 to 150 in the Catalinas, they eventually died off. Hiker Bob Bransky says he's looking forward to watching the population grow.
"I'm a big believer in keeping everything native to the areas," says Bransky, "I hike all around the country. I absolutely love it, and I love to see the wild when you can."
The cost of the project is around $600,000. It's funded by private donations and fees from hunting and fishing licenses.
9 months ago
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Dozens of bighorn sheep have a new home in southern Arizona but how they'll adjust to it is an open question.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department on Monday released 31 bighorns in Catalina State Park. More releases are planned in future years.
The hope is that the animals captured in the Kofa Mountains northeast of Yuma will settle into a new life in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson.
Bighorns had roamed the Catalinas until the 1990s. It's not known for certain what caused that herd to die off.
9 months ago
TUCSON - The Arizona Game and Fish Department will release 31 bighorn sheep into the Catalina Mountains Monday.
Here's video of the release from Monday morning:
The Catalinas used to have a healthy sheep population of about 75 to 150, but it died off in the 1990s. Biologists do not know the exact reason.
Here's video from Arizona Game and Fish of Monday's release:
Wildlife managers cannot guarantee the transplants' survival, but recent fires have improved habitat.
Brian Wakeling is the Division Branch Chief for AGFD.
"We were, I think, pretty up front all the way through this, that this is definitely an experiment," Wakeling said. "Bighorn sheep used to live here. There used to be a very robust population, but things are different than they used to be."
The animals were captured near Yuma on Saturday and Sunday. Wildlife managers hauled them to Catalina State Park Sunday afternoon. They will be released near Romero Pools and will probably stay on Pusch Ridge.
Here's video of the capture from a Game and Fist helicopter:
"They don't know where all the groceries are," Wakeling said. "They don't know where to find the water. And they don't know who's out here trying to possibly get a hold of them, and possibly, make them groceries."
The department will make 2 more releases the next 2 years. The project costs more than $600,000. It is funded almost entirely by private donations and fees from fishing and hunting licenses.
The goal is to raise $400,000 in donations. They have raised about $130,000 so far. Tax-deductible donations can be made through the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society website.
Each animal has a satellite GPS collar that will fall off after about 2 years. Biologists will closely track their movement.
The government agencies and conservation groups reached an agreement to kill a mountain lion if it preys on a sheep.
AGFD uploaded a YouTube video showing sheep being shot with a net-gun from a helicopter.
9 months ago
TUCSON - A wild population of bighorn sheep is almost in its new home in the Catalina Mountains.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department captured 31 animals near Yuma Saturday and took them to Catalina State Park Sunday.
They will be released Monday morning.
A full report is coming up on News Four Tucson at 10 p.m.
10 months ago
TUCSON - The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coronado National Forest and an advisory committee are holding a final public information meeting about a recommendation that the state reintroduce desert bighorn sheep to the Santa Catalina Mountains.
The meeting will be held on Wednesday, October 23rd at 6:30 p.m. at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort on 7000 N. Resort Drive.
The first 30 bighorn sheep are planned to be re-introduced November 16th to the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.
The overall goal is to have more than 100 animals after three consecutive years of transplants.
The total figure includes anticipated lamb births, estimated yearling survival rates, and natural mortality.
The goal the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project is to restore a healthy, viable and self-sustaining population of desert bighorn sheep to the range that coexists with an equally healthy native predator population in a naturally functioning ecosystem.
The reintroduced sheep will each be fitted with state-of-the-art satellite Global Positioning System collars that provide real time information about their location.
The project cost is estimated at $600,000 over the next three years.
A public and private fund raising effort is currently underway to secure necessary funding to complete the project.
Sponsorship opportunities are available through the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
11 months ago
TUCSON - Dozens of volunteers helped clean up the Ironwood Forest National Monument to honor National Public Lands Day.
Joe Sheehey helped trim vegetation around a water hole so animals could drink with less risk of being attacked by predators. He has been tracking bighorn sheep around the Tucson area for decades. He especially enjoys seeing lambs in the spring.
"It's been an exciting run," Sheehey said. "My heart rate gets elevated every time I see a ram, or a sheep, period."
The Friends of Ironwood Forest helped organize the event on the Bureau of Land Management property. Volunteers also picked up brass cartridge casings and other garbage around a shooting site.
The projects should help the sheep population northwest of Marana, but Sheehey is also working with several agencies to restore the bighorns to the Catalinas. They died off in the 1990s.
"If you talk to 5 biologists, you'll probably get 5 different answers on why those sheep disappeared," Sheehey said.
Wildlife managers hope to relocate sheep from the Yuma area to the Coronado National Forest by November 16. Sheehey is confident the population will survive.
"There are so many players that are important, that are really committed to this project," he said. "And I believe this will go."
Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Manager Diane Tilton occasionally checks on some of the 15 waterholes in the Ironwood Forest. She cannot keep up with the job without volunteers.
"They're really important," Tilton said. "Especially on days like today, when we can get out and do larger projects, and spread the word about what's going on out here."
Tilton and about 60 volunteers also helped redevelop a worn down water catchment near Silverbell Peak last February.
Game and Fish will hold a public meeting about the reintroduction of the sheep on October 9th. It will be at the Westward Look Resort at 6:30 p.m.
11 months ago
TUCSON - A public information meeting will be held Wednesday, October 9 about the reintroduction of bighorn sheep to the Santa Catalina Mountains.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coronado National Forest and an advisory committee of informed local stakeholders will conduct the meeting. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, 245 E. Ina Road.
The first 30 bighorn sheep are planned to be re-introduced to the Pusch Ridge Wilderness this fall, with the overall goal of more than 100 animals after three consecutive years of transplants. The total figure includes anticipated lamb births, estimated yearling survival rates and natural mortality.
The goal of the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project is to restore a healthy, viable and self-sustaining population of desert bighorn sheep to the range that coexists with an equally healthy native predator population in a naturally functioning ecosystem.
The project dovetails with a larger, holistic restoration effort to mitigate human impacts, improve habitat in the Catalinas and return fire as a natural process necessary for proper habitat functioning.
The meeting will feature a panel discussion by members of the advisory committee, established in December 2012 and comprised of local representatives from the following organizations who are working closely with Arizona Game and Fish Department and Coronado National Forest personnel:
- Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society
- The Wilderness Society
- Sky Island Alliance
- Arizona Wilderness Coalition
- Center for Biological Diversity
The reintroduced sheep will each be fitted with state-of-the-art satellite Global Positioning System collars that provide real time information about their location and any mortality events that may occur. This intensive monitoring effort will enable managers to make informed management decisions as information from collars becomes available.
This technology comes with a cost; currently the overall project cost is estimated at $600,000 over the next three years. A public and private fundraising effort is currently underway to secure necessary funding to complete the project. Sponsorship opportunities are available through the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 520-628-5376 and tax deductible donations may be made at: <http://adbss.org/catalina_donation.html>.
Information about the project may be found at:
11 months ago
TUCSON-Bighorn sheep will be making a comeback to the Pusch Ridge Wilderness this fall through the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project.
The project was explained at a public meeting in SaddleBrooke Thursday night.
For the most part, many who attended the meeting were happy to hear the sheep will make a comeback, but there were some people with concerns.
The goal is to introduce 30 bighorn sheep in November and a total of more than 100 within the next three years, but the Santa Catalina Mountains has a healthy mountain lion population, and some SaddleBrooke residents are worried about what might happen to a mountain lion after it kills a bighorn.
"It's a sometimes controversial issue, but we have devised a plan that is precise, and careful and controlled," said Mark Hart, with Arizona Game and Fish.
Arizona Game and Fish tells News 4 Tucson, the bighorn sheep will have GPS collars and when one dies, they will look into what caused the death, and if it was a mountain lion, that mountain lion could be euthanized unless it is a female with kittens.
"Is that really the best way to handle the population by killing their predators instead of letting nature just figure it out?" said Karen Hop, a SaddleBrooke resident.
Arizona Game and Fish said it's to ensure that the bighorn population will grow to more than one hundred.
"So it remains to be seen how many times we will actually have to do that, but it's only for two years. That's just so that we can get that herd established up there," said Hart.
Arizona Game and Fish said there are about 60 to 70 mountain lions in the Santa Catalina and Rincon ranges, and it remains to be seen how many will even prey on the sheep since there is other game in the area.
The advisory committee did tell residents that although they do not have a firm cap on how many mountain lions could be euthanized during this project, they want to keep it under 10.
If you have any questions or concerns, Arizona Game and Fish would like to hear from you: