In their January/February meeting, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners voted to allow bighorn sheep ewe hunting. While this may seem drastic and irresponsible, mane factors came into this decision.
Understanding the Recommended 2014 Bighorn Ewe Hunt
The Nevada Division of Wildlife, with the help of non-governmental organizations, have taken bighorn sheep populations in Nevada from 3,000 to 11,000 bighorn since their first release in 1968. A 270% increase in 46 years. Many of the bighorn sheep herds have exceeded healthy population limits and filled their habitat to capacity. With the current drought, this has further stressed the sheep and some of the larger herds are in significant jeopardy.
With fewer and fewer release sites available each year, along with the presence of disease in many of the herds, release opportunities are very limited. Nevada is willing to provide sheep to other states’ restoration programs, but disease fears make that difficult.
So… all of this leads to the question: Is ewe hunting necessary?
The health of the overall bighorn sheep herd along with long-term sustainability is the focus of sheep management as opposed to the individual sheep. There are now several sheep herds at or significantly above healthy management levels set by biologists, and many of these herds contain animals not suitable to be moved due to disease.
These animals are in danger from drought, limited food sources, habitat degradation and disease, and while a ewe hunt has never been used in the past. It is an accepted management tool and one that is used each year to manage nearly every other big game species in Nevada, as well as other states.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife has provided comprehensive information on ewe hunting via their website at www.ndow.org. This includes information on specific hunt units and their individual needs for sheep population reduction.