UTICA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and partnering organizations and agencies captured and translocated bighorn sheep this month to an area of the Little Belt Mountains about 65 miles southeast of Great Falls.
On Dec. 17, FWP and partners released 50 bighorn sheep near these storied landmarks along the South Fork of the Judith River in the eastern Little Belts.
The sheep — five young rams and 45 ewes — were captured on the south banks of the Missouri River Breaks in bighorn sheep hunting district 482, an area with a productive sheep herd that has grown past population objectives.
During capture work, FWP staff and volunteers collected biological samples from the sheep and outfitted each animal with a GPS collar. These collars will provide real-time information that will help biologists monitor the sheep’s movements, habitat use and survival for up to five years.
FWP expects to continue translocating bighorn sheep to areas within the Little Belts that are likely to support distinct herds of at least 125 sheep. Over time, there will likely be some connectivity between these herds, but only limited connectivity with existing herds outside the Little Belts.
Many organizations contributed to the success of this year’s sheep restoration efforts in the Little Belts. Funding was donated by the National Wild Sheep Foundation, the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, the Great Falls Chapter of Safari Club International, KUIU, Kenetrek and the Montana Bowhunters Association. FWP funds came from the Bighorn Sheep Auction License Fund. The project was also supported by private landowners including domestic sheep producers and members of the Montana Wool Growers Association, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.