Wild Sheep Foundation: $1 Million for Stone’s Sheep

Wild Sheep Foundation: $1 Million for Stone’s Sheep

Coming off another record-breaking Sheep Show®, the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) has committed $1 Million in Grant in Aid for Stone’s sheep conservation in northern British Columbia.

“Since our founding in 1977, a lot of emphasis has been placed on recovering and sustaining bighorn and desert bighorn sheep populations,” said WSF President and CEO Gray N. Thornton. “With dedicated efforts by our chapters and affiliates, alongside our agency and tribal partners, great successes have been achieved for bighorns. It is time for WSF to dedicate similar efforts to Stone’s Sheep. Our Board of Directors has put an exclamation mark on this need with this $1 million funding pledge.”

North America has four subspecies of wild sheep, including bighorns, Rocky Mountain bighorn and desert bighorn sheep, and Dall’s and Stone’s sheep, the latter two classified as thinhorn sheep. The low point for bighorn sheep came in the 1960s when it was estimated that there were only 25,000. Today, their collective population is approaching 90,000.

“For the most part, in northern Canada and Alaska, Dall’s and Stone’s sheep are far enough removed from the threat of disease passed from domestic sheep to wild populations,” Thornton explained. “Bighorn sheep were not so lucky, which is why they have commanded so much of our attention and funding in the past. This commitment of $1 Million for Stone’s sheep conservation is the right thing to do now.”

The funds will be made available in coordination with WSF’s affiliate, the Wild Sheep Society of BC, to provincial and First Nation wildlife agencies and other WSF partners over the next four years. The objectives are to advance Stone’s sheep surveys and inventories to assess population size and trends, investigate novel actions to improve the resiliency of Stone’s sheep to environmental challenges, conduct appropriate research, expand herd surveillance and health assessments, continue analyzing seasonal habitat selection and impacts on Stone’s sheep habitat from changing climatic conditions, identify and implement habitat improvements, and support predator management.

“Since the 1960s, when Dr. Valerius Giest did his groundbreaking research on Stone’s sheep, not that much has been done since,” Thornton said. “Too much of our conservation efforts are reactionary; WSF aims to stay ahead of the game for this iconic species. To be clear, WSF’s aim is to put more Stone’s sheep on the mountain!”

The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by sportsmen and other wild sheep conservationists. WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, having raised and expended more than $145 million, positively impacting these species through population and habitat enhancements, research and education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. In North America, these and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations from historic lows in the 1950s-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today. WSF has a membership of more than 11,000 worldwide.