11/09/2011Species Removal & Relocation
The enclosed Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) has been prepared to determine the feasibility of reintroducing Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) into three adjacent areas located in FWP Region 3 in south-central Montana: the Bull Mountains, Doherty Mountain, and Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. These areas were selected, in part, because their proximity to one another would allow for interchange should sheep inhabit the area. In addition, each of these areas contain suitable year-round habitat for bighorn sheep. From modeling efforts, it appears that the Lewis and Clark Caverns area and the Bull Mountains area would support an estimated population of 125-150 sheep at the 2.66 sheep/km2 density which is a density typical for bighorn sheep in similar habitats. Doherty Mountain is a relatively small area and is anticipated to support 50-75 sheep in addition to being used by sheep from the other two areas. Reintroduction of bighorn sheep to these areas would depend on health analyses done at the time of capture, ability of each area to meet criteria for translocation as identified in the Montana Bighorn Sheep Conservation Strategy, and availability of sheep from other areas in Montana. If any or all of these three areas being investigated for reintroduction qualify for release of bighorns, it likely would take a few years before stocking would be completed. Translocations typically consist of 20 to 40 bighorns being released for two consecutive winters. Prior to release, some of the animals would be marked with radio transmitters to determine future movements and success of the reintroduction. Bighorns would continue to be surveyed annually by FWP to determine population parameters. As bighorns become established in these areas, FWP biologists would determine when their numbers should be managed through sustainable harvest and/or translocation as approved by the FWP Commission. Establishing a sheep population numerically sufficient to support recreational hunting (i.e. limited special licenses) is a primary goal of this project. This Draft EA is available for review in Helena at FWP’s Headquarters, the State Library, and the Environmental Quality Council. It also may be obtained from the Bozeman FWP office or viewed on FWP’s website: http://www.fwp.mt.gov.