DESERT BIGHORN SHEEP RESEARCH
Desert bighorn sheep restoration efforts in Texas began in the mid 1950s. These early efforts, led primarily by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), Texas Bighorn Society (TBS), and various conservation agencies and organizations met little success. These initial labors were primarily in the form of captive propagation. Though this approach produced few bighorns for release, it was costly and accompanied by several obstacles. Some of the problems encountered included disease, predation, and low recruitment. However, restoration efforts within the last 20 years have been more successful.
Map of Trans-Pecos, Texas delineating the 3 Restoration Zones for desert bighorn sheep.
These recent efforts have focused primarily on the capture and translocation of free-ranging bighorns to either supplement populations with few sheep, or to introduce bighorns back into historic mountain ranges that have been void of sheep since their extirpation in the early 1960s.
To facilitate the effort, 3 Restoration Zones have been identified. Restoration priorities and zones are continually reviewed and revised as needed to reflect changes in conditions affecting potential success of restoration and/or expansion.
Limited resources restrict management efforts to focus primarily on areas that demonstrate the greatest potential for success. The individual mountain concept strategy has given way to a broader landscape-level approach. Even though habitat suitability of individual mountain ranges continues to be assessed independently, proximity to other mountain ranges and existing bighorn populations has become a critically important component of the evaluation process.