Note: Program updates will be provided at least monthly. Interim updates may be provided when events deemed especially significant occur.
December 21, 2007, Kofa Website Situation Update
[Please see archived updates for additional background]
- The first annual survey of the Kofa NWR bighorn sheep herd since 1992 started on October 30 and was completed on November 4. The resulting calculations provided an estimated population of 460 sheep, a slight increase from the historic low population estimate of 390 sheep after the 2006 survey. Additional analysis of such things as the distribution patterns of sub-populations is ongoing.
Bighorn Sheep in Kofa Refuge Unit 43B
- The rains of late November-early December dumped at least an inch of across the refuge resulting in abundant water availability. Resulting forage conditions have also improved as trees and other plants have already begun leafing out as a result.
- It is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s intent that implementation of the water development portion of the joint Department-Service “Investigative Report and Recommendations for the Kofa Bighorn Sheep Herd”document, will be conducted under the auspices of the 1996 “Kofa NWR and Wilderness New Water Mountains Wilderness Management Plan and Environmental Assessment.” The recent redevelopments of Yaqui and McPherson Tanks, two critical bighorn sheep waters, were coordinated under this plan.
- Future revisions of the Refuge’s wildlife water program will be addressed in the development of a Kofa NWR Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP).
- The large adult male mountain lion (designated KM03) captured in the western Kofa Mountains on October 21 has three confirmed (field checked by Department & Service staff) big game kills, all mule deer. One was killed during a foray off the refuge to the east. The other two deer were killed on the refuge.
- The lion’s movement patterns combined with the satellite array used by this type of GPS (Global Positioning System) collar, have resulted in somewhat intermittent data transmission, which is likely resulting in some as yet undocumented big game kills.
- Efforts to capture and collar additional lions continues.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is in the early stages of developing a mountain lion management plan for the Kofa NWR. This plan will undergo a full environmental compliance process, to include all associated public review.
- No transplants are planned for the Kofa NWR herd. The last transplants from this herd occurred in 2005 when 30 Kofa bighorn were collected and sent to the San Andres NWR in New Mexico to sustain that herd.
- No results have yet been received on possible disease indicators in blood and tissue samples collected during the capture and collaring of 30 bighorn sheep ewes during the month of November.
Recreational Impact on Bighorn Habitat:
- The desert bighorn sheep hunting season began December 1 and ends on December 31. A total of 12 tags (10 from refuge Game Management Units and two from a GMU that includes only a northern of refuge land) could be potentially filled on Kofa refuge land. This is the lowest number of tags issued for the refuge since 1981.
- As of this update, 7 of 10 refuge GMU tags have been filled. The two tags in the peripheral GMU were filled by animals taken outside the refuge.
- As of December 14, there had been no mortalities among the 30 bighorn ewes captured and collared in November as part of a nutrition study, and a predation monitoring and management program. There has been one partial collar malfunction in one of the GPS collars, but the radio transmission component of the collar continues to operate.
Litigation on Kofa NWR Wildlife Waters: