Performance hunting gear company KUIU and its customers purchased, captured and transplanted 55 Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep to re-establish populations in two states.
The historic simultaneous transplant — which took place Jan. 28-30 — moved the sheep from the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation-Chippewa Cree Tribe in Montana to Antelope Island, Utah, and the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation in North Dakota.
“Hunting and hands-on conservation are inseparable,” said Brendan Burns, who spearheaded the transplant and serves as KUIU’s Conservation Director. “We have focused our conservation goals as a company on tangible projects that have a direct impact on creating future hunting opportunities. With the help of 16 incredible customers and 34 KUIU volunteers, we have been able to facilitate the reintroduction of disease-free Bighorn Sheep back to Antelope Island and establish two herds missing from the Badlands of North Dakota.”
In the winter of 2018, the Antelope Island Bighorn Sheep herd suffered a catastrophic pneumonia-related die-off. The two release sites in North Dakota have been void of Bighorns for more than a century. Re-establishing sheep in these locations will create source herds for future transplants and provide hunting opportunities. With the financial help of KUIU customers and KUIU’s matched contributions, these projects were 100 percent privately funded and gifted to the receiving organizations.
“This is the first wildlife conservation project of its kind that has been funded entirely through the private sector,” says Travis Jenson, President of the Utah Wild Sheep Foundation. “KUIU and KUIU’s customer’s financial support of this project sets a new standard in the hunting and outdoor industry with respect to direct private funding of wildlife conservation projects.”
The effort was made possible through the proactive management of the Rocky Boy’s established sheep herd by the Chippewa Cree Fish and Game Department. After their spring sheep counts from the last two years showed the population was over objective, KUIU was able to purchase the excess 55 sheep and go to work finding suitable recipients.
The three release sites were chosen by working directly with Travis Jenson, Jace Taylor with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, and Brett Wiedmann with the North Dakota Department of Game and Fish. The sites were chosen for their iconic habitat and immediate readiness for translocation.
“The generosity of KUIU and its customers in providing North Dakota 30 Bighorn Sheep and funding the entire project has made this capture and translocation a unique and gratifying experience.” said Wiedmann. “This project has been a great example of how private and public organizations can work together to benefit wildlife.”
The transplants mark the launch of KUIU’s Conservation DirectTM initiative.