CHELAN — Washington state relocated 20 bighorn sheep to Utah to improve the health of herds there.
On Feb. 21, staff from the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife staff and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resource used a corral-style trap to capture 28 sheep on Chelan Butte, according to a state news release. The wildlife agencies received assistance from Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association and Washington Wild Sheep Foundation volunteers.
Fish and Wildlife staff baited the trap with feed continuously from mid-December until Feb. 21 to teach the sheep to go into the corral. They then triggered the trap, dropping a tarp wall around the corral and capturing the animals.
Twenty of the sheep were relocated to Utah to help increase genetic diversity and the health of the herd there, according to the news release. The remaining eight captured sheep were collared and released to track the sheep's movement in Chelan County. Utah’s herd contains about 60 bighorn sheep, while Chelan County has about 200 sheep.
Bighorn sheep are making a comeback in Washington state, according to the news release. The species disappeared from the state sometime in the 1930s. The sheep were reintroduced into Washington state in 1957.
The mountain goat population has declined in recent years, though, according to state Department of Fish and Wildlife reports. Mountain sheep are highly susceptible to diseases, such as lung disorders and large die-offs of sheep have been recorded.
About 3,700 bighorn sheep were counted in 2017 in Washington state, according to a report. It is estimated that in the 1980s sheep hit numbers of around 10,000.
Chelan’s bighorn sheep herd is nearing its management objectives, according to the news release. By relocating 20 of the sheep, Fish and Wildlife prevented the herd from growing, reducing the chance of conflict with people or the spread of lung disorders.