Montana FWP Uses Unique Way To Control Sheep Population - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

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Montana FWP Uses Unique Way To Control Sheep Population

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Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane.... It's sheep?

That's right! Over the next few days, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are trying to airlift sixty bighorn sheep off Wild Horse Island to send to other parts of the state.

They're blindfolded, bound, and strung up underneath a helicopter, then flown and gently landed. Then they get a whole set of medical tests before being carried into a trailer.

Then the entire thing starts over again.

"The only way to really control the population is to periodically go in and capture sheep," said Bruce Sterling, a biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Wild Horse Island really doesn't have many predators for the sheep and hunting isn't allowed, so the numbers can get out of hand.

The island can only support about 100 sheep, but at last check 155 sheep were spotted. There could be more too.

Officials are hoping to airlift out 20 ewes and 40 rams.

The airlifted sheep are fitted with collars to locate the animals with radio waves.

"The radio collars are going out on ewes and we're doing that so we can keep track of where they go, and … where they spend the summer," said Sterling.

Some of the sheep will head to the Cabinet Mountains. The others will be sent to the Kootenai Falls Wildlife Management Area just West of Libby.

Wildlife biologist Bruce Sterling says the Sheep Populations in these areas aren't struggling, but they could use some beefed up numbers.

"I enjoy doing it. You know it's a lot of work getting it all set up. It's fun to see the results, and it's even more fun when you finally get the animals back out of the trailer," said Sterling.

This year, a helicopter capture crew out of Colorado is helping FWP officials pull off the transport. So far, Sterling says they've managed not to hurt animals or any of the humans

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