עמך וצאן מרעיתך
Deaths of bighorn sheep in Arizona spark controversy over conservation effort
The first phase of a three-year plan by Arizona wildlife officials to bolster herds of bighorn sheep has resulted in the death of half the population, after the 31 sheep were transplanted at a cost of $150,000 into the Catalina Mountains where mountain lions killed 15 of the protected species within a few months.Hmmm... Any comparisons to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Just thinking out loud...
Some animal welfare groups are pushing for an end to the project, but wildlife officials say the conservation effort is not a failure and expect the projected $600,000, three-year plan to result in greater numbers of bighorns in an area where they once co-existed with mountain lions for centuries.
The issue, say Arizona wildlife officials and biologists, is a complex one.
Bighorn sheep, a gregarious, herd-forming species, once thrived in large numbers across the western U.S. until their population dropped dramatically over the past 100 years -- for reasons biologists continue to study, such as disease, fires or loss of water source. Wildlife officials in Arizona estimate the current count to be around 6,000 in the state, and they are working with conservationists to rebuild a herd that disappeared from the Tucson range in the 1990s.
Last November, the Arizona Game and Fish Department implemented the first phase of a three-year plan to transplant the creatures from the Yuma area into the Catalinas, where they once lived. Wildlife officials in the state said they spent $150,000 -- none of which was taxpayer money -- to catch 31 bighorns by helicopter, place satellite transmitter collars on them and transport the herd to the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson.
Four months later, 15 of the bighorns had been killed by mountain lions that thrive in the area -- leaving some animal welfare advocates to question whether such a plan was prudent on the part of an independent panel formed by state wildlife officials.
The Catalina Bighorn Advisory Committee -- comprised of groups such as the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, the Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity — had recommended that officials not kill any mountain lions prior to the transplant of bighorns.
After nearly half the bighorn herd was killed, state wildlife officials in turn killed two mountain lions -- leading to protests by individuals who claimed the big cats should not be targeted for acting as natural predators in the wild.