Bighorn sheep face extinction, groups say
February 11, 1999
Web posted at: 10:45 AM EST
Conservation groups Tuesday petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately list the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation, Friends of the Inyo, National Parks and Conservation Association and The Wilderness Society all assert that Forest Service efforts to change grazing practices have failed and the sheep are in dire need of protection.
Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, a unique race of bighorn found only in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, have declined to approximately 100 adults and 15 lambs, according to the NPCA. The remaining sheep mostly inhabit federal lands including Yosemite National Park, Sequoia-Kings Canyon wilderness area and the Inyo National Forest.
"If current trends continue and this animal is not immediately protected, populations of the Sierra bighorn could begin to disappear in the next few years," asserts Dr. John Wehausen, who has studied the animals for 20 years.
Sierra bighorn sheep once inhabited the crest and east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains from Sonora Pass in the north to Olancha Peak in the south. Historic accounts and known biology suggest that there were probably at least 1,000 bighorn in these mountains prior to 1850. Following their near extirpation during the gold rush, legislation was passed in 1876 protecting these sheep from hunting within California -- protection that remains today.
In recent years, diseases carried by domestic sheep that graze in areas bordering the bighorn habitat have affected the wild sheep as has predation from mountain lions.
Wehausen has discovered that the high numbers of mountain lions in the last 15 years have caused the bighorn to abandon their traditional lower elevation winter range. By retreating to higher elevations, many Sierra Nevada bighorns have died due to deep snow and avalanches, poor nutrition and lamb mortality.
For more information, contact Helen Wagenvoord, NPCA (510)839-9922.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
Sheep breaks from flock, but joins
January 8, 1999
Wolves menace Basque shepherds'
December 4, 1998
Researchers clone first mammals from
adult cells using new technique
July 22, 1998
RELATED ENN STORIES:
U.S. protects peninsular bighorn sheep
Bighorn sheep doing well in Hays Canyon
Bighorn sheep find new home in Hells Canyon
National Parks and Conservation Association
The Wilderness Society
Natural Resources Defense Council
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.