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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.”

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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.