It's been a century at least since bighorns called the Divide home, according to a park release. Some were returned there in late March as 10 ewes and four rams were translocated from land in the Inyo National Forest to the Big Arroyo area of Sequoia National Park by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in cooperation with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This milestone in the recovery of this endangered species was conducted through helicopter-supported capture of bighorn sheep in wilderness areas of the Inyo National Forest. CDFW staff and volunteers, including veterinarians and biologists, as well as several staff from other agencies, were present to assess each animal's health and ensure their safety throughout the entire process. Each animal was fitted with a radio collar and a GPS collar in order to track movements and survival.
'This project would not have been possible without the leadership of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and strong interagency cooperation with our partners, the U.S. Forest Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said Woody Smeck, superintendent of Kings Canyon and Sequoia.
This work was part of ongoing efforts to monitor the status of other radio-collared bighorn sheep that use the parks, to study bighorn sheep habitat use, and to evaluate the impacts of wilderness recreational activities on the sheep and their habitat.
This transplant brings to 11 the number of herds of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep
between Owens Lake and Mono Lake, including areas outside of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, according to the Park Service.
Two additional herds are needed to meet recovery goals: (1) Taboose Creek, which overlaps the eastern boundary of Kings Canyon National Park, and (2) Laurel Creek, which is almost completely within Sequoia National Park.
Recent estimates place the number of bighorn sheep in the recovery areas in excess of 500 animals.