Bighorn sheep are a charismatic species in the Western United States, but populations throughout the West have struggled due to a widespread respiratory illness originally introduced by European settlers.
As part of a widespread effort to increase bighorn sheep populations across the West, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources plans to increase existing bighorn sheep populations across Utah as well as reintroduce a new herd to Antelope Island.
“Bighorn sheep are really interesting, exciting animals, especially when you consider in the Western US how many bighorn sheep used to roam the landscape. They’re in a way an icon of western and wild landscapes,” said Jace Taylor, a bighorn sheep and mountain goat wildlife biologist for UDWR. “It’s a great experience to be able to go out and see bighorn sheep and I think everyone who does have that opportunity enjoys it.”
Antelope Island is a state park on the largest island within the Great Salt Lake. It is an area known for its spectacular and unique wildlife populations. Unfortunately, in 2018 the existing bighorn sheep herd on the island was wiped out by the respiratory illness. The UDWR plans to reintroduce a new healthy herd to the island, but before doing so, they are holding public meetings across the state and welcoming input on all the bighorn sheep management plans published on their website.
“We are trying to take advantage of this opportunity to be transparent so that everyone is aware of our goals and objectives when it comes to bighorn sheep management and we really value everyone’s input." Taylor said. "We look forward to everyone coming to these meetings and helping us have the best management plans so that we can have healthy bighorn sheep here in Utah.”
Taylor said bighorn sheep may be reintroduced to Antelope Island as early as 2020.
For more information, visit UDWR’s website.