Effort tracks bighorn, disease on Navajo Nation lands

A project aims to assess disease and track movements among bighorn sheep on the Navajo Nation.
Credit: Joel Berger

Navajo tribal authorities and veterinarians and scientists from the Denver Zoo, Colorado State University and the Wildlife Conservation Society teamed up to capture and release 90 bighorn sheep on Navajo Nation lands. They hope to track their movements and diagnose disease as part of the first phase of a study led by the Denver Zoo. 

After populations plunged to just 34 individuals, the Navajo Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program launched in 1997 to increase their numbers. Desert bighorn (Ovis canadensis nelson) numbers in the area peaked at 600 in 2016, but a pneumonic epidemic has sent two populations into decline. 

The project also aims to assess disease prevalence in the Navajo Nation’s wild bighorn populations. 

The second phase of this research project will include a collaboration with local domestic sheepherders to identify possible disease reservoirs and suggest solutions to prevent the spread of disease. 

Read more from the Wildlife Conservation Society.