Endangered Bighorn Sheep Moved to Yosemite, Sequoia Parks

For the first time in a century, endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are back on their ancestral range and headed toward recovery, wildlife officials said. During an ongoing relocation effort, hundreds of bighorn have been captured with nets dropped from helicopters then moved to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks.

“We’ve got the sheep where we want them on a broad geographic basis, which is a huge milestone,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Tom Stephenson said. “We’ve still got to get their numbers up a bit.”

Thousands of the sheep once roamed the Sierra Nevada but overhunting and disease spread by domesticated sheep herds caused near-extinction. Between 1914 and 1986, no bighorn roamed Yosemite, and statewide their numbers hit a low of about 100. The animals were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1999. Today, about 600 exist statewide in areas critical to their survival, Stephenson said.

“I think it says a lot about humans,” a wildlife biologist said. “We’re capable of correcting mistakes of the past by returning this charismatic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep back to its native habitat.”

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