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.

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 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 Jace Taylor of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Sheep safety and disease testing were the top priority from capture to release. Jace is a shining example of progressive biologist solely dedicated to the protection and expansion of bighorn sheep populations in Utah.

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 three herds. He was very instrumental in the entire Utah portion of this project.

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 also want to thank Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Antelope Island State park for welcoming these sheep and this collaboration. Utah did an incredible job of ensuring the quick turnaround to make Antelope Island ready for bighorns again. It took many partners on their end to make this happen.

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.

In the continued interest of total transparency, once the sheep were released to each location there is no connection to KUIU or the people involved. Both were a gift from KUIU and KUIU customers to the hunters of the United States with no strings attached.

The hunters of Utah now own the sheep given to Utah, which are managed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources as a nursery herd on Antelope Island State Park. In the future these sheep will be made open to hunting by both auction and state draw once sustainable numbers and age are reached

Sheep Capturing and Processing in Montana

The Successful Release on Antelope Island, Utah

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

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