On November 17 officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?s San Andres National Wildlife Refuge, plan to release about 30 desert bighorn sheep from Arizona onto the refuge.
News media are invited to cover the release, which will occur around 10 a.m. The Refuge lies approximately 22 miles northeast of Las Cruces, New Mexico north of U.S. Highway 70 within the boundaries of the White Sands Missile Range managed by the Department of Army. The area is not open to the public; therefore the missile range will control the media?s access to the sheep release site. Arrangements must be made with the White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs Office by calling 678-1134.
This year, officials from San Andres NWR, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and White Sands Missile Range will join their counterparts from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Kofa NWR in the capture and move up to 30 bighorn sheep to New Mexico. It is estimated that Kofa has well over 600 desert bighorn sheep, making it the largest population in southwestern Arizona.
This release is similar to one done in 2002 when a total of 51 desert bighorn sheep were transplanted into the San Andres Mountains. The 31 ewes and 20 rams came from the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge near Yuma, Arizona and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish bighorn sheep breeding facility at Red Rock. At that time, only one ewe remained from the indigenous San Andres bighorn herd.
The supplemental transplant is being conducted to reintroduce a viable and self-perpetuating bighorn sheep population in the San Andres Mountains. According to wildlife experts, the San Andres NWR contains the best sheep habitat in the state. Before a scabies outbreak in the 1970s that eventually decimated the herd, there were as many as 200 animals roaming the mountain range. Scabies is a skin disease caused by a parasitic mite (Psoroptes spp.) which infects the skin, resulting in a general decline in health that can lead to death.
Arizona has a large population of desert bighorn sheep but a shortage of Rocky Mountain bighorns. New Mexico has a relatively small number of desert bighorn sheep but plenty of Rocky Mountain bighorns. The two states have agreed to trade sheep to help each other. So, in return for the desert bighorn sheep from Arizona, New Mexico will send more Rocky Mountain bighorns west.
In addition to photographing the release of the sheep, media outlets will have an opportunity to interview officials about the program.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
Visit the Service?s website at http://www.fws.gov.