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KUIU Conservation Direct North Dakota - KCD1

Watch the process of capturing, processing, and release of 30 Rocky Mountain Bighorn into the Badlands of North Dakota.

From January 27 – 29, 2020, KUIU, along with a group of 16 great customer donors and 34 volunteers, were fortunate enough to complete the first company and customer funded bighorn sheep transplant. As the inaugural project of the new KUIU Conservation Direct initiative, it included the concept, purchase, testing, capture and transplant of 55 excess Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep from the Rocky Boys Indian Reservation in northern Montana.

The first 30 sheep were given to the Three Affiliate Tribes (TAT) in North Dakota for reintroduction in two separate locations. The second 25 sheep were given to the State of Utah for release and reintroduction on Antelope Island as the seed stock for the new Rocky Mountain Bighorn nursery program in Utah.

“Hunting and hands-on conservation are inseparable,” said Brendan Burns, who spearheaded the transplant and serves as KUIU's Conservation Director. “We have focused our conservation goals as a company on tangible projects that have a direct impact on creating future hunting opportunities. With the help of 16 incredible customers and 34 KUIU volunteers, we were able to facilitate the reintroduction of disease-free Bighorn Sheep back to Antelope Island and establish two herds missing from the Badlands of North Dakota.”

While KUIU and our customers were the driving force behind this project, we did not do it alone. There were many partners and professionals involved on the receiving end in both North Dakota and Utah that need credit for the hard work they put in.

First, we want to thank the people of Rocky Boys Reservation and the Chippewa Cree Fish and Game for allowing us the opportunity to purchase and be stewards of their sheep surplus. Excess bighorn sheep are quite possibly the rarest commodity in the west. We did not take the opportunity for granted.

We are grateful for the biological guidance and capture coordination planning provided by Brett Wiedmann of North Dakota Game and Fish. Brett is a shining example of progressive biologist solely dedicated to the protection and expansion of bighorn sheep populations in the state of North Dakota.

“The generosity of KUIU and its customers in providing North Dakota 30 Bighorn Sheep and funding the entire project made this capture and translocation a unique and gratifying experience.” said Wiedmann. “This project was a great example of how private and public organizations can work together to benefit wildlife.”

All State and Tribal laws were followed from capture to release on each group of sheep. The latest in disease testing was performed by two independent labs for both translocations to ensure the health of the source herd and new herds going forward.

We are very grateful to Travis Jensen of Utah Wild Sheep Foundation for the help he provided in facilitating the acquisition of 15 collars on behalf of the Sportsmen of Utah for our ongoing study involving all herds involved in KCD1 and KCD2.

We are very appreciative of Midwest Wild Sheep Foundations Mike Boutin and Patti Murry for independently managing and ensuring total financial transparency for the project. Midwest Wild Sheep took on the role as the bank for all donations and payments. KUIU and Conservation Direct did not touch any of the money involved in this project. Every dime went through MWSF.

We want to thank the North Dakota Game and Fish and the Three Affiliate Tribes (Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation) for their hard work in preparing to receive the sheep and their commitment to ensure these herds prosper in the future.

When we set out on these projects there were only two requirements.

  1. Receiving transplant locations had to be dedicated to the creation of future sheep hunting opportunities. Basically, these sheep had to go to an area that could and will be available for hunting in the future.
  2. Both sheep herds, once reaching sustainable numbers, had to be made available for a reciprocal transplant back to Rocky Boys should a catastrophic die off ever occur. These two new herds created an insurance policy of disease-free genetics should the unthinkable ever occur from the original stock on Rocky Boys.

The Three Affiliate Tribe (TAT) now owns the sheep in North Dakota, which will be managed by Brett Wiedmann and the State of North Dakota. This partnership is the first of its kind in North Dakota involving wild sheep. Future tags will be split between the state of ND and the tribe for both auction and drawing. It is estimated the first hunt will take place in the fall of 2025 or 2026.

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