12th Bighorn Released in Catalinas Dies


by Douglas Kreutz / AZStar

Another bighorn sheep, a ram, was found dead in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson on Tuesday, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has confirmed.

It was the 12th bighorn to die since 31 sheep were relocated to the Catalinas from the Yuma area in November.

The cause of the ram’s death is under investigation, officials reported.

Two mountain lions have been killed for preying on sheep since the reintroduction project began.

In related developments:

  • A bighorn lamb was spotted Tuesday in the Catalinas. It’s the third lamb seen since the relocation, which is aimed at rebuilding a herd that disappeared from the range in the 1990s.
  • Members of a group called the Friends of Wild Animals held a protest Thursday outside the downtown headquarters of the Coronado National Forest. The purpose: to voice opposition to a proposal that would allow helicopters in the forest’s federally designated wilderness habitat occupied by the bighorns.

Mark Hart, a spokesman for the Game and Fish Department, said the agency is seeking a permit from forest officials to fly helicopters in the wilderness if such flights were deemed necessary.

“Helicopter flights could be necessary to examine a sheep carcass, remove a carcass, or bring up supplies,” Hart said.

“If a helicopter goes into the wilderness, we would need the permit.”

Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the Coronado Forest, said Thursday that the permit request is under consideration.

A decision would be made by forest officials only after following standard protocols, Schewel said.

Ben Pachano, a spokesman for Friends of Wild Animals, said the group opposes helicopter flights in the wilderness because “helicopters are a major disruption to wildlife, including lots of sensitive wildlife other than bighorns.”

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