Wildlife Experts Worried for Bighorn Sheep

DENVER, May 24 (UPI) — Long-term survival of Colorado’s bighorn sheep is being threatened by non-native mountain goats, construction and disease, authorities say.

Colorado Division of Wildlife data show the number of bighorn sheep statewide declined by 10.2 percent between 2001 and 2009, from 7,690 to 6,903, due to construction impinging into habitat, increasing lung disease, and motor traffic and livestock adding to stress for the animals, The Denver Post reported Monday.

Throw into the mix the 157 bighorns killed by hunters every year and mountain goats introduced by Colorado wildlife managers in 1948, and federal biologists speculate the sheep could disappear.

“It’s fair to say that, of all the big game in this state, the bighorn species is the one we are most concerned about,” Rick Kahn, terrestrial- wildlife-management supervisor for the state, said.

Bighorn sheep populations have been reduced by 50 percent by the presence of mountain goats, which often charge the bighorns, driving them away from salt licks and other food sources.

Wildlife managers say they plan to control the goat populations by allowing hunting, the Post reported.

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