Watch Endangered Bighorn Sheep Get Helicoptered Into a National Park
These sheep fly.
A helicopter has delivered bighorn sheep to Yosemite National Park, returning the endangered animal to a part of its historical range that it hasn’t roamed for more than 100 years.
From March 26–30, rangers captured and transported the sheep from Inyo National Forest and Sequoia National Park, releasing them in Yosemite’s Cathedral Range. In total, nine ewes and three rams were dropped into the site via helicopter.
It’s part of an ongoing relocation project to reestablish the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep—a genetically distinct subspecies of the mountain-adept bighorn family.
More than a century of hunting and rampant disease spread by the introduction of domesticated sheep decreased the Sierra Nevada population to just 100 by 1995. Thanks in part to efforts by local, state, and federal wildlife organizations, the species now numbers 600 individuals in the wild.
“We are ecstatic to see bighorn sheep in the Cathedral Range for the first time in more than 100 years,” Don Neubacher, superintendent of Yosemite National Park, said in a statement.
With the transfer of bighorn sheep to Yosemite, the species has now been reestablished in every region identified as “critical habitat” in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery plan.
Each bighorn sheep released was fitted with a GPS collar so researchers can track the animal’s location. In a video showing the animals’ release, you can watch 12 animals scurry out of their cages and immediately onto the terrain they are best suited for—craggy cliffs at high elevations.
Only those among Yosemite’s four million annual visitors who are willing to trek to remote areas of the park will have a chance to see the animals. But for Yosemite wildlife biologist Sarah Stock, the reason for restoring them isn’t to create a tourist attraction but to right the previous errors.
“I think it says a lot about humans,” Stock said. “We’re capable of correcting mistakes of the past by returning this charismatic Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep back to its native habitat.”