Tucson– The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coronado National Forest and an advisory committee of informed local stakeholders will conduct a final public information meeting Wednesday, Oct. 23, about a recommendation that the state reintroduce desert bighorn sheep to the Santa Catalina Mountains. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Drive.
The first 30 bighorn sheep are planned to be re-introduced Nov. 16 to the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, with the overall goal of more than 100 animals after three consecutive years of transplants. The total figure includes anticipated lamb births, estimated yearling survival rates, and natural mortality.
The goal the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project is to restore a healthy, viable and self-sustaining population of desert bighorn sheep to the range that coexists with an equally healthy native predator population in a naturally functioning ecosystem.
The project dovetails with a larger, holistic restoration effort to mitigate human impacts, improve habitat in the Catalinas and return fire as a natural process necessary for proper habitat functioning.
The meeting will feature a panel discussion by members of the advisory committee, established in December 2012 and comprised of local representatives from the following organizations who are working closely with Arizona Game and Fish Department and Coronado National Forest personnel:
- Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society,
- The Wilderness Society,
- Sky Island Alliance,
- Arizona Wilderness Coalition,
- Center for Biological Diversity.
The reintroduced sheep will each be fitted with state-of-the-art satellite Global Positioning System collars that provide real time information about their location and any mortality events that may occur. This intensive monitoring effort will enable managers to make informed management decisions as information from collars becomes available.
This technology comes with a cost; currently the overall project cost is estimated at $600,000 over the next three years. A public and private fund raising effort is currently underway to secure necessary funding to complete the project. Sponsorship opportunities are available through the Arizona Game and Fish Department at 520-628-5376 and tax deductible donations may be made at: http://adbss.org/catalina_donation.html. Information about the project may be found at www.catalinabighornrestoration.org