Arizona bighorn sheep are being reintroduced to the Catalina Mountains, backed by organizations supported by hunters.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, that seems to be a point of controversy in the reintroduction process, which some say is meant primarily to produce a viable herd of bighorn that can eventually be hunted for game.
The November reintroduction of 31 sheep has already seen half of them (16) die, mostly to mountain lion attacks.
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Some great investigative work by the Daily Star has revealed, through records obtained and interviews, that important supporters of the reintroduction and members of the group working to operate it are participants in the Wild Sheep Foundation, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society and the Arizona Chapter of Safari Club International.
To a certain extent, we have to say, “Yeah, no kidding.” Reintroduction projects are often backed and supported by hunting groups, officially or unofficially. Whether hunting the bighorn in the Catalinas is an end game or not doesn’t matter as much as people think. Hunting would, ideally, not be allowed until the populations have sustained themselves. In our eyes hunting is a part of great game management, if you’re doing it correctly.
On top of that, hunting the bighorn sheep has yet to be so much as suggested by the groups backing the project. It’s conjecture, which we don’t think is fair.
Conservation and outdoor sports go hand in hand. The bighorn sheep currently involved in the reintroduction were captured in Yuma, Arizona and released in the Catalinas. They’ve been non-existent in that area north of Tucson since the 1990s.
Perhaps the biggest and most important part is the fact that this particular reintroduction project has seen discouraging results, with such a high mortality rate. Mountain lions are being identified, singled out and hunted if they prove to interfere with the sheep, which is proving as a major point of contention for the debate sparked by the project.
This selective removal, part of the project’s policy, has environmentalists upset.
We propose this situation to you: What do you think of a reintroduction project being funded and backed by hunters? Do you think this is “non-news,” or is this another chapter in an on going debate? Leave your thoughts below.