Conserving the Nature of America

News Release


November 9, 2005


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

Not many people are aware that the largest population of desert bighorn sheep -- New600 was the last estimate -- exists in southwestern Arizona. Pretty much in the backyard desert northeast of Yuma on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

In a joint effort beginning on November 15, Officials from the Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the Department of the Armys White Sands Missile Range will begin a capture of desert bighorns from Kofa NWR. The 30 animals will be transported to San Andres NWR, New Mexico where they will be released on November 17. This is the second of three installments of sheep onto San Andres NWR, which lies

within the boundaries of the White Sands Missile Range managed by the Department of Army. The area is not open to the public.

The supplemental transplant is being conducted to reintroduce a viable and self- perpetuating bighorn sheep population in the San Andres Mountains within the refuge, which according to wildlife experts contains the best sheep habitat in New Mexico.

This release will be similar to one done in 2002 when a total of 51 desert bighorn Newsheep were transplanted to 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.

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 Newsheep 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 creating a winning situation for all parties - and best of all the sheep.

Arizona media interested in filming the project and conducting interviews may contact the refuge at: (928) 783-7861.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 Newfishery 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, c onserves 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 Services website at

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