Bighorn sheep nursery moves to new Utah home

Jan 9, 2024, 11:00 AM

The area features a high fence that provides perfect sheep habitat and lower predator densities...

Bighorn Sheep (Phil Tuttle, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

(Phil Tuttle, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

SALT LAKE CITY — Wildlife enthusiasts working with Duchesne and Box Elder Counties have taken the next step to create the long-term viability of desert bighorn sheep in Utah. On Dec. 22, wildlife officials moved animals from Duchesne County to a roughly 1,000-acre property in Boothe Valley.

The move to Box Elder County follows the creation of a makeshift nursery facility in Duchesne County. The Division of Wildlife Resources wanted to create a disease-free space for population growth to have a healthy “feeder herd” of the species that could be transplanted to other locations in the state.

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and other private donors bought the land near Promontory Point in Box Elder County. The area features a high fence that provides perfect sheep habitat and lower predator densities, making it a near-perfect place to safely relocate the animals from Duchesne County. 

Bighorn Sheep Photo: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Protecting bighorn sheep as we protect bison

The idea is for this nursery location to provide the same protections for Beehive State bighorns that the Great Salt Lake provides to the state’s bison herd. Other states regularly seek out Utah’s bison because of their natural protection from disease on Antelope Island, where water acts as a natural fence keeping unwanted animal species from intermingling with the herd.

Utah’s “Once in a Lifetime Coordinator” Rusty Robinson oversees the once-in-a-lifetime hunts for moose, bison, and big horns.

“We can use animals from this nursery herd to reintroduce native bighorns to currently unoccupied areas of Utah as well. We are hopeful that this nursery herd will allow us to have long-term viability of desert bighorn sheep in Utah,” Robinson said.

Bighorn conservation work relied on the private sector

President of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Troy Justensen said the move to Box Elder County is significant. And he said without the private sector, the work wouldn’t have been done. 

“This will be remembered as one of the most significant events in preserving desert bighorn sheep in Utah. This would not have been possible without the private donations from the Pedersen Family Trust and Gary Sorensen.”

Everyone remembers the first time they saw an eagle fly. Or, a giant moose cross their path while hiking. How about the first time you saw a bear from a safe viewing distance?  With the continued efforts of DWR and its partners, you may soon be able to add desert bighorn sheep to your list of outdoor memories in more locations throughout Utah!

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Bighorn sheep nursery moves to new Utah home