DESERT BIGHORN COLLAR PROJECT
Updated: May 12
The Winter Range Foundation has partnered with the California Fish & Wildlife Department to add an additional 15 collars to their Desert Bighorn Sheep program in 2023. We will be joining them to catch, collar, collect data, and release desert bighorn sheep across many different ranges in California.
The Last Chance, Dry Mountain, and North Hunter Mtn desert bighorn populations are native and have never been extirpated or increased through translocation. However, very little is known about these populations. Disease transmitted from domestic
sheep and goats is thought to have brought them significantly below historic population levels (Wehausen and Ramey unpublished data), though the current disease status of these
populations is unknown. No modern Global Positioning System (GPS) collar has ever been placed on a bighorn in these herd units. Only one population estimate using mark-resight techniques has ever been conducted in these herd units - a camera survey at the guzzler in the Dry Mountain herd unit from July 6th, 2017 to July 10th, 2017 estimated a population of 39 ewes utilizing this water source.
To improve our knowledge of desert bighorn population sizes, survival, movement, and habitat use we need to purchase 15 additional GPS Collars. The purchase of GPS collars would facilitate a larger capture and collaring event of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) to be conducted by CDFW in November 2023. CDFW currently plans to capture 39 bighorn across 10 herd units during this capture (Table 2).
Each collar has an estimated cost of $2300.00. We are looking to fund 15 collars at $34,500. There would also be administration fees, travel, and other expenses in the amount of $10,500. So the total funding amount required for this project would be $45,000.00.
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife is tasked with conserving desert bighorn sheep populations for their long-term persistence and ecological values in the face of changing environmental conditions. Accomplishing this task requires a baseline understanding of California’s desert bighorn population sizes, survival, movement, and habitat use. Collaring desert bighorn in the Last Chance, Dry Mountain, and North Hunter Mtn areas will provide the Department with the data necessary for the management of these populations. This data will also provide the Department with a deeper understanding of the metapopulation structure and connectivity within California’s Northern Bighorn Conservation Unit.
The Winter Range Foundation is excited to partner with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in this important project. Funding for this project will come from California grants and resources outside of Wyoming only.