Sheep struggles

 

The bighorn reintroduction project in Arizona’s Catalina Mountains did not appease everyone; far from it (“The Cost of a Comeback,” HCN, 5/29/17). The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club did not approve of the project and a local Tucson group, Friends of Wild Animals, vehemently opposed both killing mountain lions and net-gunning bighorn from helicopters, collaring the animals and dumping them out in unfamiliar habitat.

The impetus for the Catalina Bighorn Project was Brian Dolan’s group of hunters, the Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, which has members on the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and thereby dominates the commission’s decisions, particularly about slaughtering mountain lions. The habitat of the Catalina Mountains is not as great as this article reports. In fact, the vast majority of the habitat is rated poor to fair on a habitat-quality map. The present bighorn population estimate of 85 head is actually five fewer than the 90 sheep relocated from established home ranges in western Arizona. There is a net loss in the number of desert bighorn sheep in Arizona as a result of the relocation project.

It is highly unlikely that there will be a herd established in the Catalinas, because the human disturbance is too great for long-term survival of bighorns in the poor-to-fair habitat.

Ricardo Small
Albany, Oregon