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Nov 18, 2013 2:40 PM by Sam Salzwedel

VIDEO: Bighorn Sheep released at Catalina State Park

TUCSON - The Arizona Game and Fish Department will release 31 bighorn sheep into the Catalina Mountains Monday.

Here's video of the release from Monday morning:

The Catalinas used to have a healthy sheep population of about 75 to 150, but it died off in the 1990s. Biologists do not know the exact reason.

Here's video from Arizona Game and Fish of Monday's release:

Wildlife managers cannot guarantee the transplants' survival, but recent fires have improved habitat.

Brian Wakeling is the Division Branch Chief for AGFD.

"We were, I think, pretty up front all the way through this, that this is definitely an experiment," Wakeling said. "Bighorn sheep used to live here. There used to be a very robust population, but things are different than they used to be."

The animals were captured near Yuma on Saturday and Sunday. Wildlife managers hauled them to Catalina State Park Sunday afternoon. They will be released near Romero Pools and will probably stay on Pusch Ridge.

Here's video of the capture from a Game and Fist helicopter:

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"They don't know where all the groceries are," Wakeling said. "They don't know where to find the water. And they don't know who's out here trying to possibly get a hold of them, and possibly, make them groceries."

The department will make 2 more releases the next 2 years. The project costs more than $600,000. It is funded almost entirely by private donations and fees from fishing and hunting licenses.

The goal is to raise $400,000 in donations. They have raised about $130,000 so far. Tax-deductible donations can be made through the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society website.

Each animal has a satellite GPS collar that will fall off after about 2 years. Biologists will closely track their movement.

The government agencies and conservation groups reached an agreement to kill a mountain lion if it preys on a sheep.

AGFD uploaded a YouTube video showing sheep being shot with a net-gun from a helicopter.

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