Utah DWR: SkyRider Wilderness Ranch to provide ‘nursery’ for desert bighorn sheep

Bighorn lamb. Photo: Utah DWR/Crystal Ross
  • SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 30, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is partnering with Young Living to create the first “nursery” for desert bighorn sheep in Utah in an effort to help grow the species’ population in the state.

The new desert bighorn sheep nursery will be located on roughly 1,800 acres of private property — the SkyRider Wilderness Ranch — owned and managed by Young Living in Hanna, Duchesne County, a statement from Utah DWR says.

The area provides a water source and good habitat for bighorn sheep, and it is properly fenced to prevent them from wandering off the property, the statement says.

While Antelope Island has served as a nursery herd for several years for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, this will be the first nursery area for desert bighorns in the state.

“We are really excited about this area and the opportunity it will provide to grow our desert bighorn populations in Utah,” DWR Once-In-A-Lifetime Species Coordinator Riley Peck said in a prepared statement.

“There have been some disease issues with our bighorn sheep populations in the past, and this fenced area will provide a place for our herds to safely grow. This nursery herd allows us to have long-term viability of desert bighorn sheep in Utah. Whenever we have a need to supplement or create new populations in the state, we will have our own internal bighorn sheep population and can be self sufficient in maintaining healthy herds. The benefit of this nursery area cannot be overstated.”

Grandfather’s legacy

Young Living Founder D. Gary Young said the cooperative operation is in keeping with a childhood goal.

“My great-grandfather told me when I was 10 years old, ‘My boy, whatever you do in this life, leave something behind that will make this world a better place for those coming,'” Young said in the prepared statement.

Photo: SkyRider Ranch

The DWR is partnering with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to get the initial desert bighorn sheep for the nursery herd. The nursery area can support roughly 150 bighorn sheep. Hunting will not be allowed on the property.

“We will maintain a viable number of desert bighorn sheep on this property and the additional animals will be relocated to other Utah areas to help supplement those bighorn sheep populations or to start new herds,” Peck said.

“We are so grateful to Young Living, the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and the Wild Sheep Foundation for their partnership in these crucial conservation efforts. We are very appreciative of the generosity of the Nevada Department of Wildlife for giving Utah hundreds of bighorn sheep over the years to repopulate our herds.”

There are currently here are currently around 2,800 desert bighorn sheep and 1,500 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Utah.

Bighorn eye in a collar. Photo: Utah DWR/Crystal Ross

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