The Very Latest On Stones & Desert Sheep


Published: September - 2007

In the last 15 to 20 years, something quite remarkable has been happening with desert bighorn sheep and Stone's sheep. Despite similar histories, the two species are on very different population trajectories. Stone's sheep, quite simply, are on their way to becoming the rarest of the North American wild sheep while desert bighorns are thriving.

What's remarkable about this trend is that desert bighorns live in the Southwest, North America's fastest-growing region in terms of human population. They face a host of human-related impacts, including habitat loss and fragmentation, even the reintroduction of wolves within desert sheep habitat. Yet desert sheep hunting opportunities are growing fast. Look at Texas and California, where sheep permits were unavailable before 1990. Today, Texas issues 12 permits and California 14. Utah previously issued only five permits and today offers more than 50. Then, of course, there's the steady growth of sheep numbers in Mexico, with more permits becoming available on a yearly basis. Meanwhile, here at FNAWS we've noticed a decline in the number of Stone's sheep entries for our recognition programs, along with a decline in the trophy quality of those entries, particularly over the last three years.

So, why are desert bighorn opportunities multiplying while Stones opportunities are declining? Let's talk about the Stone's sheep first. This past winter the Guide Outfitters Association of British Columbia (GOABC) hosted the workshop Stone's Sheep: Preparing for the Future, in an effort to figure out just what's happening to Stone's sheep and what can be done to save them. With funding from both FNAWS and the Grand Slam Club/OVIS, GOABC invited outfitters, wildlife ministry officials of British Columbia, various conservationists and even preservationists to Prince George, British Columbia, where they discussed the issues affecting Stone's sheep. What emerged was a list of 15 recommendations on what can be done about forest encroachment, increased predation, competition with other species and effects of industry development (primarily oil and gas exploration and drilling).

Following the workshop, GOABC produced An Action Plan for Stone's Sheep, which FNAWS/ISHA is using as a blueprint in........(continued)

 
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