South Dakota says it wants to bring bighorn sheep from Alberta for new herd near Deadwood


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PIERRE, South Dakota — South Dakota will use $80,000 from the auction of one bighorn sheep hunting license to help establish a new herd of the big game animals near Deadwood as early as this winter, Game, Fish and Parks Department officials told state lawmakers Wednesday at a committee meeting.

The state issues three bighorn sheep licenses annually: two by lottery, one by auction. This is the second year for the auction, which supports the state's sheep program.

Jeff Demaske from Colorado won this year's license.

The $102,000 received from last year's license auction funded an effort to import animals from Montana.

The state and Oglala Sioux Tribe worked together to import the bighorn sheep, splitting the cost and the animals. Twenty were added to the Elk Mountain herd this January. All the adult ewes in the group have produced lambs since their release.

The Elk Mountain process cost the state about $12,000 for capture, coordination and disease testing.

According to state documents, disease is the number one factor limiting growth of the animal's population. Pneumonia is an issue among the state's bighorn sheep.

Tony Leif, director of the Division of Wildlife in the department, said pneumonia has to run its course through a herd over several years.

Leif said additional efforts to shore up the population began in 2012, when a group of sheep enthusiasts approached officials.

He said the department is coordinating with the Canadian province of Alberta to obtain sheep for the new herd in Deadwood. The state will pay a contractor to collect and transport the animals.

Leif said the state doesn't pay for the animals, just the costs of moving them. He said if things go as planned, a new population could be in Deadwood this winter.

Auction funds will also go toward a double fence program to better separate domestic sheep herds and safeguard the health of the wild ones.

The bighorn sheep hunt will be between September and December.

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