Break out the net gun and fuel up the chopper, it's time to capture some bighorn sheep in New Mexico.
Somewhere out in the middle of the Palencio Mountains, New Mexico Game and Fish Wardens are airborne in search of pregnant bighorn sheep. Their mission is to capture pregnant ewes, plant radio transmitters within them, and then place radio collars on newborn sheep after birth.
Ride along with the team as they gear up to capture bighorn sheep in the mountains.
This particular program had a 90 percent success rate and allowed New Mexico Game & Fish to monitor the herd population and travel patterns of sheep for research and restoration purposes.
By 1980, less than 70 desert bighorns existed across the entire state, which prompted a massive restoration program to help bring back the species. Over the last several years, New Mexico Game & Fish have increased management efforts and predator control to help grow the population statewide and in 2011, the sheep population had been successfully restored to such a healthy population that they were removed from the New Mexico endangered species list.
For the 2015 hunting season, the department of Game & Fish estimated that it would be able to offer 36 bighorn ram tags to hunters. 20 of those tags would be for desert bighorn rams, an increase of 19 from the prior year.
It's because of successful conservation programs like this one that species across the country are able to be brought back to such healthy numbers and can be removed the from endangered species lists.