Tracking Bighorn Sheep in the Mohave Desert

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bighorn_gps_trackingApparently, it is flu season for more than just the human population! Animals get sick too! Right now, the bighorn sheep in the Mojave Desert are coming down with a fatal case of pneumonia. Experts are trying to determine how bad it actually is, so they’re employing the use of both GPS trackers and helicopters to help the sheep.

The project will cost $48,000, and will hopefully keep the herds of sheep safe from disease. There are over 100 of the animals currently, and the strain of pneumonia has wiped out two entire herds. That’s bad news.

Solving The Mystery

Rangers aren’t sure what is causing the pneumonia outbreak. One theory is that wild sheep are being infected by domestic sheep. If a domestic sheep is ill and mixes with a wild population, the wild sheep can become sick.

Both the ‘California Department of Fish and Wildlife’ and the ‘National Park Service’ hope that the GPS trackers and helicopter survey can bring some answers. The study will take place over a period of four days beginning this Sunday, and officials are hoping it will put an end to this pneumonia outbreak.

The Study

The helicopters will take to the skies above the roughly 80,430 acres of desert to find the herds of bighorns, concentrating on areas where sick or dead animals have been discovered. The National Park Service will pick up the tab for the helicopters, which can fly for seven hours per day. The cost for tho is a whopping $1,600 per hour!

When a sheep is discovered, the helicopter will fly low and shoot a net meant to capture the animal. On board, they’ll blindfold the captured sheep to keep it calm, restrain its legs so no one is injured, collect blood samples, take a nasal swab, and affix a GPS tracker. Afterward, the animal will be released back into the desert.

In all, 54 GPS trackers will be employed. If the GPS tracker senses the animal isn’t moving, an alert will be initiated stating the animal has died so that researchers can head to its location to take further samples. The collars will remain operational for about four years.

Getting Answers

The team collaring the animals consists of biologists, veterinarians, and others to aid in their capture. The veterinarian will make the decision regarding what should be done with an animal. Healthy sheep will receive GPS trackers, while sick animals will be put down for immediate autopsy.

No one really knows how many have died. These animals are quite nomadic, moving from location to location based on water sources. This time of year, there are more areas water is available, so the herds tend to spread out over a large distance. Officials knew they had a problem on their hands when they found the first of the dead sheep in mid-May.

Half of the herd roaming the Old Dad Mountain area have died. The disease was found to have spread in August to the Marble Mountains. It has been confirmed that both herds in each location were afflicted with the same strain of pneumonia.

While bighorns are susceptible to this disease, humans cannot be infected.

While you probably don’t need to worry about tracking an animal population in order to save them, there is most certainly an aspect of your life that could use a GPS tracker. Contact us today to determine the perfect solution for you!

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