May 28, 2008, Kofa Website Situation Update
[Please see archived updates for additional background]
- The purpose of this joint Arizona Game and Fish Department-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service effort is to restore the Kofa desert bighorn sheep herd to numbers that will once again support the herd’s critical and historic role as a source of animals for translocation to resurrect herds throughout the southwestern United States. Many herds were extirpated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, primarily as a result of market hunting to support frontier development.
Herd Survey Update:
- The next annual herd survey will be conducted in the fall of 2008. Results of the 2007 survey are available in the December 2007 update.
Desert bighorn sheep photographed in unit 45B of
the refuge during the November 2007 population
- The May rains could not have been more timely and have significantly improved water conditions across the refuge. There is almost always a cellular component to these rains, so it is possible that some catchments may still be lower than desired, but field checks after the storms indicated good flow throughout the refuge.
- Despite the improved conditions, Department and Service field staff are continuing routine monitoring of water catchments in order to preclude their going dry once we enter the heart of the summer.
Horse Tanks, Castle Dome Mountains, 2005
Predation Management and Monitoring:
- A Department trapping team continues to work on the Kofa to capture and collar additional lions, but, to date, have not been successful.
- Service field biologists conducting checks of waterhole cameras found images of two individual lions visiting water catchments in the Kofa Mountains in April. From the physical appearance and location, one appears to be a female lion that has been known to be on the refuge for several years. The other is suspected to be a male, but, absent its capture, this cannot be confirmed.
- A researching graduate student from New Mexico State University observed a lion in the Kofa Mountains in late May.
- On May 22, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a 30-day extension of the public scoping period for its Kofa NWR mountain lion management plan and environmental assessment. The new end date is June 23, 2008. The Service’s intent to pursue such a plan was first mentioned in the December 2007 update.
- Transplants remain suspended.
Recreational Impact on Bighorn Habitat:
- The 2008 season will commence on December 1, 2008, and run through the month. The results of the 2007 season are available in the January 2008 monthly update.
Research and Monitoring
- As of the date of this report, there are no known additional mortalities among the 26 bighorn sheep ewes remaining from the 30 originally captured and collared in the Kofa Mountains in November 2007. As was noted in the April 1, 2008, update, one ewe was killed by mountain lion KM03 and three other collars have malfunctioned. New Mexico State University has established a full-time presence on the refuge to continue monitoring of these animals.
- Fifteen of the collars were provided by NMSU to facilitate research into bighorn nutrition, mortality, and lamb production. The intent is to annually recapture these animals to gather data related to these study issues.
- The other 15 collars were provided by the Department for the specific purpose of monitoring mortality so as to facilitate efforts to capture and collar mountain lions.
- In keeping with the NWR System Improvement Act of 1997, data and information is shared between these two collaring programs.
Litigation on Kofa NWR Wildlife Waters: