Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep in The Catalina Mountains

Establishing a Self-Sustaining Bighorn Population

Bighorn SheepBighorn sheep are running wild within the Catalina Mountains once more.

Thirty bighorns, from parts of Arizona, arrived in the Catalinas in November 2013. More sheep came to the range in November of 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The effort of a bighorn sheep advisory committee has reestablished a herd. The State’s Game and Fish Department help achieve the goal. The species had disappeared from the range in the 1990s.

Many of the first bighorns released died as a result of mountain lion predation and disease. But the population appears to be stable.

Bighorns sheep appeared in the steep, rocky habitat in the Pusch Ridge area of the Catalinas. Other sightings were in the Ventana Canyon area of the east ridge.

The Future Look Bright for The Bighorn

It appears the objective is to restore a self-sustaining bighorn sheep population succeeded. The overall cost estimate for the undertaking was around $600,000. Community and private fundraising is underway to secure funding.

Capturing the bighorn sheep moved to the Catalina’s took two days. Releasing the 30 animals was done in the blink of an eye. As one official stated, “It’s years of planning punctuated by seconds of excitement.”

Bighorn sheep appear to be enduring in the Catalina Mountains today. But it is difficult to get an exact population estimate.

Each Bighorn released had a GPS monitoring collar. But many of the collars failed over the years.

In 2018, 32 collars were still operating. The actual number still living and roaming the Catalinas could be more than double that number.


There are frequent sightings of Bighorn sheep by hikers in the mountains. Hopefully, the sheep will reproduce and become a bigger herd going forward.

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