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Sep 13, 2013 1:31 AM by Erika Flores

Bighorn sheep to be introduced to Santa Catalina mountains this fall

TUCSON-Bighorn sheep will be making a comeback to the Pusch Ridge Wilderness this fall through the Santa Catalina Bighorn Sheep Restoration Project.

The project was explained at a public meeting in SaddleBrooke Thursday night.

For the most part, many who attended the meeting were happy to hear the sheep will make a comeback, but there were some people with concerns.

The goal is to introduce 30 bighorn sheep in November and a total of more than 100 within the next three years, but the Santa Catalina Mountains has a healthy mountain lion population, and some SaddleBrooke residents are worried about what might happen to a mountain lion after it kills a bighorn.

"It's a sometimes controversial issue, but we have devised a plan that is precise, and careful and controlled," said Mark Hart, with Arizona Game and Fish.

Arizona Game and Fish tells News 4 Tucson, the bighorn sheep will have GPS collars and when one dies, they will look into what caused the death, and if it was a mountain lion, that mountain lion could be euthanized unless it is a female with kittens.

"Is that really the best way to handle the population by killing their predators instead of letting nature just figure it out?" said Karen Hop, a SaddleBrooke resident.

Arizona Game and Fish said it's to ensure that the bighorn population will grow to more than one hundred.

"So it remains to be seen how many times we will actually have to do that, but it's only for two years. That's just so that we can get that herd established up there," said Hart.

Arizona Game and Fish said there are about 60 to 70 mountain lions in the Santa Catalina and Rincon ranges, and it remains to be seen how many will even prey on the sheep since there is other game in the area.

The advisory committee did tell residents that although they do not have a firm cap on how many mountain lions could be euthanized during this project, they want to keep it under 10.

If you have any questions or concerns, Arizona Game and Fish would like to hear from you:

http://www.azgfd.gov/comments.shtml

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