April 29, 2008, Kofa Website Situation Update
[Please see archived updates for additional background]
- The purpose of the joint 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 in areas from which they have been extirpated, primarily as a result of market hunting during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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.
- As we approach the summer season, water and forage conditions remain generally good across the refuge and the greater Kofa Mountains Complex as a result of good winter rainfall. Historically, those conditions will begin to deteriorate as we enter the summer season.
- Department field staff have already begun routine annual monitoring of water catchments in order to preclude their going dry during the summer.
Desert bighorn sheep dead of thirst during 2002
Severe drought year, at Red Tank in the Castle
Dome Mountains, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
- Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff are planning to install and monitor a temporary water site on non-wilderness refuge land in Engesser Pass at the east end of the Kofa Mountains. This location, which currently does not have a natural water source, was identified as a potentially important water location for bighorn sheep in the joint Investigative Report. Biologists would like to establish and monitor a temporary surface-tank water to determine if the hypothesized wildlife use will materialize.
- As discussed in the April 1 update, KM03, the large adult male mountain lion captured in the western Kofa Mountains last October, was lethally removed by Department staff in late March after it left the refuge. KM03 became an offending lion under the Department’s May 2007 “Kofa Mountains Complex Predation Management Plan”, after having killed at least two bighorn sheep in a six-month period. Since its removal, Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists have downloaded the data from its GPS collar and visited likely sites of kills. After having visited all the location clusters, the final verified list of kills for this lion is seven mule deer and six bighorn sheep.
- On April 18, the Department announced it was, for up to one year, suspending the lethal removal of offending lions captured and collared on the Kofa NWR while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed the environmental assessment for its mountain lion management plan. Capturing, collaring and monitoring of lions on the refuge continues. The suspension does not affect wholly Department-resourced lethal removal of any offending lions captured and collared outside the refuge.
- On April 23, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its “Public Scoping Letter for Environmental Assessment for Management of Mountain Lions on Kofa NWR” in order to garner public input for the plan. 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
- No change from April 1 update.
Litigation on Kofa NWR Wildlife Waters:
- A long list of new reports, plans, and other documents have been added to the “References” section of the website. To take a look, click here.