It was the second operation in a year that reintroduced a couple herds of endangered bighorn sheep to a location in Sequoia National Park. This time, the effort also relocated sheep to Yosemite.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW); Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks; Inyo National Forest; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked together on the complex operation in the Sierra Nevada.
n 2014, Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis sierrae) occupied the Great Western Divide for the first time in over 100 years due to recent efforts by state and federal agencies. Between March 19-22, 2014, a total of 10 ewes (females) and 4 rams (males) were translocated from land in the Inyo National Forest to the Big Arroyo area of Sequoia National Park.
Between March 26 and 29, 2015, nine ewes and three rams were moved from the Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park.
In addition, seven ewes were moved to the Laurel Creek area of Sequoia National Park during that same time frame. Three rams were brought in to join those females on March 30.
Laurel Creek is located in the remote southeast corner of Sequoia National Park, east of Franklin Pass in the Mineral King area and west of the Kern River.
The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is the only federally endangered mammal in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. This animal was listed in 2000 after the population plunged to a low of about 100 individuals. The population has since increased to over 600, which marks an important milestone in their recovery. Prior to the arrival of western settlers, which brought unregulated hunting and livestock diseases, bighorn sheep populations likely numbered in the thousands.
This latest chapter in the multi-year recovery effort involved the capture of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep in wilderness areas on these federally managed lands. CDFW staff and volunteers, as well as veterinarians, biologists, and staff from other agencies, assessed the health and safety of the animals throughout the entire process. Each animal was fitted with a radio collar and a GPS collar to track its movements over the next several years.
The bighorn sheep are expected to thrive in their new homes because both of these historically occupied areas have superb summer habitat with adequate forage, are close enough to other Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep to provide the potential for connectivity among herds, and are far enough from most domestic sheep-grazing areas to provide a buffer from potential disease transmission.
The Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation and the Wild Sheep Foundation funded the translocation into Sequoia National Park.