Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Editorial - Bighorn sheep, helicopters don't mix

The translocation of sheep began in November and stirred controversy. Some wildlife advocates were aghast when the newly transplanted sheep became easy dinner for mountain lions in the area. Of the 31 transplanted sheep, 16 died. Most were killed by hungry lions.

The decision by Arizona Game and Fish to kill three mutton-loving lions stirred more controversy. It just didn't seem right to sentence lions to death for eating the prey that had been delivered to their hunting grounds.

Yet the larger goal of restoring a population of bighorns to this area made sense. The iconic animals were once common there, and Game and Fish wildlife biologists have been successful in reestablishing herds in other parts of the state.

The group of bighorns on Pusch Ridge have produced five lambs since arriving, and no bighorns have died for more than four months. There are tentative plans for bringing about 30 more bighorns to Pusch Ridge this fall, and more next year. The success of this effort would be good news for Arizona.

But Game and Fish is also asking the U.S. Forest Service to grant permission to use helicopters to manage and monitor the bighorns in remote areas of the wilderness. This could include killing mountain lions who prey on bighorns.

Do you want scientific management of wildlife?  Then oppose Wilderness.

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