YOSEMITE — A new episode of Yosemite Nature Notes entitled “Bighorn Sheep” is now available for viewing. The video features stunning footage of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, interviews with wildlife biologists, and a special focus on the re-introduction of these magnificent animals to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park in March 2015. The video is posted on the park’s website and on Youtube.
The Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is the only federally endangered mammal in Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. This animal was listed in 2000 after the population plunged to a low of about 100 individuals. The population has since increased to over 600, which marks an important milestone towards their recovery.
Prior to the arrival of western settlers, which brought unregulated hunting and diseases in their livestock, bighorn sheep populations likely numbered in the thousands, say park officials.
In order to bolster the population of bighorn sheep, as part of a multi-year recovery effort, Yosemite National Park worked with several other agencies on reintroducing bighorn sheep to Yosemite’s backcountry. Working collaboratively with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Inyo National Forest, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, ten ewes (females) and three rams (males) were moved to the Cathedral Range in Yosemite National Park in March of this year. The “Bighorn Sheep” Yosemite Nature Notes episode features rare footage of the recovery effort, including the capture and release.
Overall, the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are doing well, say park officials. Wildlife biologists conduct periodic field surveys and all of the animals are equipped with GPS collars. Lambs were born in early summer and the herd is adapting well to their new surroundings.
The reintroduction of the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep is one of Yosemite National Park’s signature projects for the National Park Service (NPS) Centennial. In August 2016, the NPS will commemorate its 100th Anniversary, also known as the Centennial. In order to mark this significant milestone, the park has identified several projects that will benefit Yosemite’s iconic natural and cultural resources.
Other Centennial Signature Projects include the landmark restoration of Giant Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove, rehabilitation of the historic Ahwahnee Hotel, and restoration of fragile ecosystems surrounding the Merced and Tuolumne Rivers.
Yosemite Conservancy funded equipment and experts to bring the new herd into Yosemite National Park, as well as the GPS collars to track the animals’ movements and locations. Over the past 20 years, Yosemite Conservancy has funded nearly $630,000 to help protect bighorn sheep by supporting research, translocation efforts, radio and GPS collars.
Yosemite Nature Notes began in 1922 with a newsletter highlighting unique natural and cultural features of Yosemite National Park. After hundreds of issues, the publication was discontinued in 1961 due to high printing costs.
Yosemite Nature Notes was resurrected in 2008 when filmmaker Steve Bumgardner began producing videos about the natural and cultural aspects of Yosemite National Park. Yosemite Conservancy provided funding for Yosemite Nature Notes to ensure that this important video library of the park continues to grow, serve as an educational resource and inspire stewardship of the park.
Twenty-seven episodes of Natures Notes have been produced covering a variety of topics, such as Black Bears, Big Trees and Glaciers.
Yosemite Nature Notes can be viewed on the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/yose/learn/photosmultimedia/ynn.htm and on Youtube at www.youtube.com/user/yosemitenationalpark.