Bighorn Sheep
Flourishing in Utah
2003 is shaping up as a good fund-raising year for Utah's bighorn sheep management program. More than $250,000 was raised through the sale of seven Utah bighorn sheep conservation hunting permits at two conventions hosted by the Foundation for North American
Wild Sheep (FNAWS).

A total of $160,000 was raised through the sale of three bighorn sheep permits at the national FNAWS convention in Reno, Nevada in January. Included in that amount was $80,000 given for the statewide Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permit, the highest amount ever paid for a bighorn sheep permit in Utah.

An additional $95,000 was raised through the sale of four bighorn sheep permits at the Utah Chapter of FNAWS convention held March 1 in Sandy.

"Utah is gaining a reputation for having good bighorn sheep rams," said Jim Karpowitz, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources. "In fact, a Rocky Mountain bighorn ram that was taken on one of our units last year went well into the record book."

FNAWS will be allowed to keep 10 percent of the conservation permit money raised at their recent conventions. The remaining 90 percent raised from the sale of bighorn sheep permits will go to the Division of Wildlife Resources, to fund Utah's bighorn sheep program

Karpowitz says Utah's flourishing bighorn sheep populations are a result of hard work by the Division of Wildlife Resources and FNAWS. "Except for personnel costs, all of the funding for Utah's bighorn sheep program comes from hunters who buy conservation permits," he said. "The money they provide allows us to transplant sheep, do surveys, conduct bighorn sheep research and place guzzlers in areas where sheep need water.

"If you enjoy hunting or just viewing bighorn sheep in Utah, you can thank FNAWS and the hunters who purchased the permits."

And you don't have to pay $80,000 to hunt bighorn sheep in Utah, either. In 2003, approximately 50 permits will be available to the public through Utah's drawing process. A once-in-a-lifetime bighorn sheep permit in Utah costs residents $508 and nonresidents $1,008.

Karpowitz says Utah is home to more than 4,000 bighorn sheep. That total includes more than 3,000 desert bighorns, more than 1,000 Rocky Mountain bighorns and about 200 California bighorns.

Most of Utah's desert bighorns live in the deserts of southern Utah, while Rocky Mountain bighorns are found mostly along the Green River corridor (from Flaming Gorge to the city of Green River) and on Timpanogos and Provo peaks near Provo. California bighorns live on the Newfoundland Mountains and Antelope Island State Park in northern Utah.

During the past 20 years, more than 1,000 bighorn sheep have been transplanted to areas of historic habitat within Utah. Bighorns for these transplant projects have come from both outside the state and from areas within Utah. "During that time, our bighorn sheep populations have tripled," he said. "In some other states bighorn sheep populations are declining, but in Utah they continue to do well."

Karpowitz says bighorn sheep are very drought-tolerant, so he doubts Utah's current drought will cause them major problems. "They were here thousands of years before we arrived and are pretty tolerant of Utah drought," he said.

Everything that's happening with bighorn sheep in Utah is very satisfying to Karpowitz, who calls bighorn sheep "a truly magnificent animal."

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