Texas Making Effort to Restore Bighorn Sheep to Home Range

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According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, 82 bighorn sheep were recently translocated from Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, in Alpine, with the long-range goal of restoring bighorns to the mountain ranges where they once roamed. Texas has seven herds of free-ranging desert bighorn sheep, the result of restocking efforts begun in 1954 and continuing to the present time.

Bighorn Sheep Numbers Rising

Bighorn Sheep

Photo: Flickr/b d

In the late 1800s, wildlife scientists estimate as many as 1,500 bighorn sheep roamed the mountains of the Trans-Pecos. Bighorn numbers dwindled to about 500 in 1903 due to unregulated hunting and diseases transmitted from domestic and exotic livestock. By the 1960s, they were gone from Texas.

Today, bighorn sheep once again roam in Texas. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Bighorn Society, wildlife conservation groups, private landowner and others worked for decades to reestablish bighorns in the state. Surveyors counted 1,280 bighorns in Texas in 2014, slightly up from 1,190 in 2013. Texas Parks and Wildlife estimates that the  2015 Texas population of bighorn sheep was at 1,500.

Black Gap Wildlife Management Area

Blackgap WMA

Photo: Facebook/BlackGap

The Black Gap Wildlife Management Area borders Big Bend National Park on the northwestern boundary. The management area shares 25 miles of the Rio Grande with the Mexican State of Coahuila on the southern and eastern boundaries. The property contains approximately 103,000 acres where the Sierra del Burro and Sierra del Carmen Mountain Ranges enter into Texas. The management area is also located in some of the lowest elevations of the Chihuahuan Desert found in the United States.

If you’d like to try and catch a glimpse of the bighorn sheep yourself, Texas Parks and Wildlife advises that Big Bend Ranch State Park visitors can sometimes see bighorn sheep on the flanks of Santana Mesa from La Cuesta on FM 170. Sheep also have been sighted in the interior of Big Bend Ranch State Park on the Fresno Canyon West Rim and on isolated crags near Sauceda Ranger Station.