KALISPELL – Several bighorn sheep have traveled more than 500 miles to their new home in Northwest Montana.
A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks team braved subzero temperatures and extreme winter weather to capture bighorn sheep south of Malta and move them to help improve a herd near Plains.
FWP staff worked with a helicopter crew from Quicksilver Air Inc. to capture 20 bighorn sheep in weather that saw wind chills of 45 degrees below zero in mid-February.
FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish says that, “As a core part of FWP’s mission to monitor and maintain healthy wildlife populations, biologists occasionally transplant bighorn sheep from areas where there are healthy herds.”
Tabish says the bighorn sheep population southeast of Plains has shrunk dramatically in recent years from roughly 100 sheep to barely 20-25 animals.
“That population saw a decline in numbers about three years ago and we did some work to see if it was a disease-related issue. The sheep that we did test came back clean, so we saw a great opportunity to go in and augment the population and try to build it back up to the objective of about 100-125 sheep,” said FWP Region 1 Wildlife Biologist Bruce Sterling, who participated in the recent capture.
Before being transported the long distance, the animals were given an antibiotic, dewormer and vitamin injections.