Earlier this month, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) lethally removed several bighorn sheep from the Rio Grande Gorge herd because they were too close to their domestic counterpart. NMDGF wouldn’t confirm how many sheep were culled; however, according to The Taos News, the department killed two rams Jan. 4 and may have actually removed eight bighorn sheep in total.
NMDGF spokesperson Dan William told The Taos News that the bighorn sheep were killed “near Pilar” and were “most likely” within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Because domestic sheep are known carriers of bacterial pneumonia, which can decimate wild bighorn sheep herds, the removal was proactive in an effort to keep the herd healthy. Williams says that the bighorn sheep in question were “within a couple of miles” of the domestic herd.
The Rio Grande Gorge bighorn sheep herd has thrived since 2005 when Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were relocated to the area. In 2007, additional bighorn sheep were relocated from the Pecos Mountains. The relocation efforts were successful and, now, the herd numbers about 280, according to New Mexico Wildlife.
New Mexico will offer a Rio Grande Gorge bighorn sheep hunt for the 2018 season. It will run Aug. 15, 2018, to Jan. 19, 2019. Only four licenses will be available – the first time since 2015.