A transplant completed February 1 south of Burley added 15 California bighorns to the Jim Sage Mountain herd. The bighorn sheep ewes were transported from Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in south central Oregon. The bighorns were captured by an interagency crew of volunteers and personnel from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge earlier in the week.
Students from the elementary school at Plush, Oregon were on hand to see the captured animals before their trip to Idaho. All of the bighorn sheep were outfitted with radio-transmitter collars so their movements can be followed. Gretchen Fowles, a graduate student at Idaho State University, will monitor the animals as they adapt to their new home in Idaho.
Blood drawn from each bighorn sheep will be used in a study of the herd^s genetic history. That study is being conducted under direction of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and encompasses most of the California bighorn sheep herds in the northwest.
These ewes join a herd that was planted on Jim Sage Mountain in February of 2000. The animals in that transplant operation came from near Condon, Oregon. Sheep in the first release did suffer some losses from predators and accidents but are doing well on the mountain and have not strayed far from the release site.
The Jim Sage Mountain area is historic bighorn sheep range where wild sheep disappeared early in the settlement of southern Idaho.