Wednesday, 01 March 2006 00:00

NDOW’s lack of planning kills bighorns

Written by Gerald Lent
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Nevada Hunters Association


In July, 2005 a couple riding on ATV’s discovered 22-24 dead desert sheep carcasses at the McCullough #3 water development in southern Nevada. At least 3 of the sheep were very large rams in the Boone & Crockett category. All the sheep appeared to have died in a close time range of each other.


The three supply tanks at this development were found to be free of vandalism and had the hatches secured correctly. Water was found flowing freely into the collection tanks.


According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, four days after wildlife officials announced water and tissue tests were inconclusive, Craig Stevenson, a wildlife habitat biologist in Las Vegas confirmed that Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn members Ed Pribyl and Gary L. McDaniel had shut off the flow of water from two of the three tanks in November, 2004 to prevent freezing the pipes but forgot to turn them back on in the 105 degree summer heat of 2005. The other tank went dry from as many as 85 sheep using Guzzler #3. One ram was apparently so thirsty that it used its curved horns to lift the heavy steel-plate lid from the float box to get at the last sips left in the chamber. According to NDOW officials many carcasses had cactus needles in the face and chest areas, probably from trying to get any moisture out of any surrounding cactus plants. Their initial observation of the animal carcasses also showed signs of struggling or tumbling.


Not a pretty picture for such a great animal. Many sheep might have lingered around the guzzler because they could smell the 4,600 gallons of water that remained in the two full, shut-off tanks. Rob Buonamici, Nevada’s chief game warden, said it was “just an unfortunate oversight” that the two tanks weren’t turned back on in the spring season. Craig Stevenson, NDOW biologist said, “It’s the mistakes everyone wants to know about.”


What a pathetic shame and disservice sportsmen’s organizations like Nevada Bighorns Unlimited and Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn are doing to sheep. They refuse to speak out and expose the very problems and lack of co-ordination that might save our sheep in the future. They fund and build water developments to attract and sustain sheep for NDOW and then ignore them and abandon the sheep. They let the sheep depend on and get used to the water developments and when these guzzlers are neglected and shut off, the sheep become so dependent upon the water and in this case, do not relocate and thus perish.


In an article by NDOW on feeding wild birds, they caution that if you start a program of feeding in the winter months, and the birds get dependent on it, you must continue it throughout the winter or else you have done more harm than good as the birds will just perish! It appears that the same is true for sheep. NDOW claims it has no funds or manpower to maintain and check these water developments and depends on volunteers. What a way to run a state agency! It’s the old overworked and underpaid syndrome.


Therefore NDOW should immediately stop building water guzzlers until they make a commitment to actually perform the necessary maintenance. If they are not going to consistently maintain artificial water developments, then it is a waste of time and resources. NDOW cannot continue to ignore its own responsibilities to address a water development maintenance program head on.


I want to make it perfectly clear that we believe water developments are necessary and benefit wildlife in Nevada. However, because of human failure and failure to acknowledge their failures, this has been disastrous for a big segment of our desert sheep.


Ultimately it is not responsibility of the sportsmen’s groups to perform what NDOW is supposed to do. Sportsmen’s groups should demand accountability from this state agency and insist they perform their constitutional duties. NDOW employees responsible for this should have been reprimanded, demoted or reassigned to some job they can reasonably accomplish. Sheep management is obviously not a task for them.


NDOW’s Wildlife Almanac (Spring-Summer 2004includes an article titled: “Water and Wildlife-Bring on the Guzzlers.” NDOW states “that building a water development will allow certain species to utilize habitat that they previously could not, thus introducing or expanding that population in that specific area”. This is true but nowhere do they mention they must be also responsible to maintain this new water source once the animals are expanded into this new area, in order for them to survive.


NDOW can delegate authority to build water developments but they cannot delegate the responsibility for maintaining them, regardless of which volunteer organizations may help them. This is just another of NDOW’s many failures.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 05:59
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