July 31, 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
- With decent rains in May, and a timely start of the monsoon storms in July, conditions on the Kofa are good. The Department was able to cancel some anticipated water hauling, although water was hauled (water trucks to the end of the road, and hand laid water hoses the remaining distance) to Chain Tank (Unit 45C) in June.
- Despite the improved conditions, Department and Service field staff will continue routine monitoring of water catchments in order to preclude their going dry during the second half of the summer.
Horse Tanks, Castle Dome Mountains, 2005
Predation Management and Monitoring:
- A graduate student from New Mexico State University observed a lion in the Kofa Mountains in late May.
- Biologists located a suspected lion-killed mule deer near one of the monitored wildlife waters in June, and another in July. Biologists have not located any lion-killed sheep since the spring.
- There have been several photos taken of lions on the refuge since the last update on May 28th. Biologists suspect that the photos document as many as three separate lions (two in the Kofas, and one in the Castle Domes).
- A Department trapping team continues to work on the Kofa to capture and collar additional lions, but, to date, have not been successful.
- The public scoping period for the Kofa NWR mountain lion management plan and environmental assessment (EA) ended June 23, 2008. The Service will now review scoping comments and then begin drafting of the EA.
- Transplants remain suspended.
- Blood samples were taken from the sheep captured last fall for the NMSU study, and we are awaiting results from the lab.
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.
- Two additional satellite collars have stopped transmitting data since the last update on May 28th, it cannot be determined if the collars have failed completely until the collars are recovered in the fall of 2008 (the collars are designed to store the data on board, and the data may yet be recovered).
- 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:
Nothing new to report