Montana Groups Working to Establish New Bighorn Sheep Population in Bridger Mountain Range


Bozeman, Montana. January 9, 2020. After three years of collaborative efforts between the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation and the Montana Wool Growers Association, establishing a new bighorn sheep population in the Bridger Mountains east of Bozeman has taken another step forward.

Montana Wild Sheep and Montana Wool Growers recently presented Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Martha Williams, Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MTFWP), and Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commissioners with a unified letter encouraging MTFWP to move forward with the additional scoping necessary to determine the feasibility of establishing a new bighorn sheep population in the Bridger Mountain Range.
(Read letter)

“We salute this effort because it’s a win, win, win,” said Gray N. Thornton, Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) president and CEO. “Anytime we can expand and maintain healthy wild sheep populations, this valued resource benefits and people benefit. With the Bridger’s being in proximity to a major science-based university like Montana State, Bozeman, we also have the opportunity to further develop the necessary strategies to minimize the health impacts on wild sheep when sharing habitats with domestic populations.”

Montana’s Bighorn Sheep Conservation Strategy, established in 2010, lists several statewide objectives including genetic work, heard health monitoring strategies, implementing on-the-ground separation strategies and establishing five new viable and huntable populations by 2020. MTFWP has completed many of the objectives in the Conservation Strategy but has not completed a new viable population transplant since 2001 in the Greenhorn Mountains on the north end of the Gravely Range. The Bridger Range was first proposed as a suitable option in 1993 and again in 2013. Recent understanding of disease profiles as well as developing a scientific approach to the separation between wild and domestic sheep, make this transplant viable now.

“Wild sheep population conservation and enhancement doesn’t happen by chance, it takes purpose and commitment,” Thornton said. “It also takes collaboration from all stakeholders. WSF couldn’t be more pleased that Montana Wild Sheep Foundation and Montana Wool Growers have joined in what should be a historic outcome for Montanans and our bighorn sheep. We are optimistic that together we can all make this happen.”

The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. With a membership of more than 8,000 worldwide, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep and other mountain wildlife and their habitats. WSF has raised and expended more than $130 million on wild sheep habitat and population enhancements, education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations in North America from historic lows in the 1950-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today.

Media Contacts: Keith R. Balfourd 406-404-8750

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