• Bighorn Sheep Roundup Near Yakima Up is On

  • Shades Of Wild Kingdom, Choppers Buzz In For The Capture

  • Bighorns Aren't Happy But it's For Their Own Good

One of the highlights of driving on state route 821, the canyon highway from Yakima to Ellensburg, is the occasional hillside sighting of a herd of bighorn sheep.

While you may never have seen a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in person, you no doubt know them from their massive, distinctive curled horns displayed on the tailgates of hundreds of Ram pickup trucks that roar across the Yakima Valley.

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Those horns can weigh up to 30 pounds, more than the weight of the rest of the sheep's bones combined! 

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The Challenge Is To Manage The Sheep And A Deadly Disease

According to Conservation Northwest, around 1,500 of the majestic mountain bighorns are scattered across parts of Eastern Washington. For all their symbolism of power and vitality, the sheep are quite susceptible to bacteria and diseases, Ten years ago hundreds of wild bighorns from the Tieton and Umtanum herds in Yakima and Kittitas counties were wiped out by domestic sheep disease. 

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The Safest Way To Ensure Sheep Heard Health Is From The Sky

As a result, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) keeps a close eye on the health of the herds and nothing says "close eye" like dropping a net on one from a helicopter so it can be captured, examined, tracked, and monitored and the chase is on!

WDFW takes to the air today through the weekend to capture up to 60 members of the Umtanum/Selah Butte and Cleman Mountain herds.


If a high-flying, canyon diving aerial act seems excessive, the WDFW says it's not. 

This is a routine method for capturing sheep safely...The welfare of the animals and the people working with them is the agency’s number one priority during these operations.

Like a parent who tracks their kids (or spouse) with a GPS device, the WDFW will fit each captured sheep with a GPS collar to collect info to find out how groups of sheep interact with each other and their habitat as a way to help prevent the spread of deadly sheep pneumonia called “Movi.”

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"Wild Kingdom" Returns To The Yakima Canyon

If you grew up spending your Sunday afternoons watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom on TV, thrilled to the animal wrangling exploits of host Marlin Perkins and Jim "do all the dirty work" Fowler, then you've got the idea of what's happening this weekend. Yakima area residents who hear the bleating of the sheep and the buzzing of the helicopters should know that Marlin would be proud.

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