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Current Program Update
 

NoteProgram updates will be provided at least monthly.  Interim updates may be provided when events deemed especially significant occur.   

July 16, 2007 Update

Survey Update:

  • The first annual survey of the population remains on schedule for this fall.

Water Management:

  • The re-development of Yaqui Tank was completed on June 3.  Bighorn sheep began using the drinker within the week following its installation.
  • The re-development of McPherson Tank was completed on Jun 16.

Predation Management:

  • A mountain lion, an adult male estimated to be 2.5 years old, was captured in the Castle Dome Mountains on the Kofa NWR on June 3.  He was fitted with a GPS radio collar and released. 
  • Over the next few days following his release, he traveled northwest of Adams Well and killed a mule deer in Gravel Wash, which is on the refuge.
  • He then returned briefly to the vicinity of his capture site before traveling  to thesoutheast, where location data indicates he stayed in a small area for several days.  This represents the type of cluster that research tells us often indicates a kill.  Two visits to the location located the bones of two bighorn sheep lambs.  While the location of these remains at a typical “predation cluster” certainly indicates a correlation, we are not crediting the lion with these kills since the scattered and desiccated condition of the carcasses precluded determining the cause of death definitively.
  • The lion then traveled southeast to the southeast corner of the Castle Dome Mountain, remaining about a day in this very remote location.  No location cluster was noted, so the site was not visited.
  • The lion then traveled east, leaving the refuge, and locating briefly in the Tank Mountains of game management unit 41 before moving south to the vicinity of Whitewing Ranch.
  • The lion stayed in this area for about a week.  Visits to location clusters noted at this time discovered two mule deer kills and one coyote kill.
  • The lion then traveled westward a short distance into the Palomas Mountains and spent almost a week in the heart of the Palomas.  He killed a bighorn ewe at that location.  Since this site is located outside the area managed under the Kofa Mountains Complex Predation Management Plan [Make this a link to the plan], this kill is not being credited toward an “offending lion” determination.
  • The lion has since begun moving back toward the Tank Mountains.
  • In summary, in the 44 days since this lion was collared, he has killed at least three mule deer, one bighorn sheep, and one coyote.  While not definitively attributable to lion predation, the remains of two bighorn sheep lambs were found at a site known to have been used by this lion for several days. There are at least two other location clusters that are characteristic of a kill, although no carcasses have yet been found.
  • Biologists continue to backtrack on the data contained in the collar of the lion killed in the Plomosa-New Water Mountains north of the Kofa NWR on June 3 to gather additional data on that lion’s predation patterns.
  • This lion was taken off the Kofa NWR in accordance with the Department’s Kofa Mountains Complex Predation Management Plan after having met the definition of an offending lion, i.e., taking two or more bighorn within a six month period.
  • When removed, this lion was confirmed as having taken four bighorn and one mule deer.
  • Biologists are using the data from the lion’s collar to identify likely predation location clusters.  So far, they have confirmed the additional killing of a bighorn lamb and a mule deer.
  • The total kills confirmed for this lion now total five bighorn and two mule deer.

Disease Monitoring:

  • Disease monitoring is normally conducted in conjunction with samples taken during collaring or transplant operations.  Additional information is also provided by hunter reports during the hunting season.  There has been no sampling in this population since those taken during the 2005 transplant.  No unusual disease indicators were noted at that time nor did hunters during the 2006 season make note of any disease indicators.
  • Recently, news accounts have widely reported the belief by scientists that they have determined a causative factor for pneumonia in wild bighorn.  It is unknown at this time if this disease is a significant factor for desert bighorn.

Recreational Impact on Bighorn Habitat:

  • The heat of Sonoran desert summers coupled with the isolated nature of bighorns’ preferred habitat generally results in little recreational use of the Kofa during this time and this summer is no exception.
  • Plans are being completed to monitor recreational impacts on selected sites once we reenter the high-use recreational period this fall.

Hunting:

  • The bighorn sheep season for the Kofa NWR runs the month of December 2007 and only rams are hunted.  Paradoxically, despite the overall population decline, the number of rams remains high and far exceeds the number required for reproductive needs of the herd.
  • The Department has long used the most conservative end of its hunting guidelines methodology to determine hunt recommendations for the Kofa NWR.  For the 2007 hunt, 12 tags are available for the Kofa NWR.  This is the lowest number of tags issued for the refuge since 1981.
  • There is a statewide tag that is auctioned to generate funding for bighorn sheep management throughout the state.  The tag may be used to hunt in any legal game management unit.  If used on the Kofa, this would constitute a 13th tag.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

  • Nothing reported

Research

  • Nothing reported

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