Project Status Update: February 3 – February 16, 2014 – Habitat improvements due to fires in the Santa Catalina Mountains have been talked about as an important advantage for the Bighorn Sheep when compared to the habitat during their population decline and eventual extirpation. This update has the first notes I have seen on this project acknowledging what seems true from hiking in the range – that important sections of the Big Horn Sheep Management Area have not experienced a major fire in quite sometime and that some areas have grown back aggressively after the fires:
Several reports following the Bullock and Aspen fires suggested they had helped to remove the brushy component and opened up the habitat so that sheep would be able to better elude predation. For instance, one study indicated that 24% of the available sheep habitat had burned and that habitats would be more suitable for sheep post-fire than they were in the early 1990s. Although the Bullock and Aspen fires in 2002 and 2003 helped to open some of the landscape, as time passes, natural fuels are once again beginning to accumulate in some areas where past fire intensity may have been low. In addition, there is a large area of sheep habitat that has not burned in several years, and biologists believe this area would benefit from the reintroduction of fire.
Arizona bighorn project criticized for deaths: An article about the project with a few pro/con quotes – perhaps the most interesting point is not about this particular reintroduction but the suggestion that without translocation efforts Bighorns would be well below current population levels.