An unusual conservation strategy is saving one of the American West's most iconic species, one helicopter ride at a time. Bighorn sheep, which once roamed North America at numbers as great as 2 million, dwindled to a population of just 20,000 in the 19th century, thanks to diseases contracted from herds of domestic sheep that were introduced near them. But, happily, the species is coming back, The New York Times reports:
In recent decades, state wildlife management agencies have undertaken extensive conservation work to help bring bighorn sheep back from the brink. Much of the work focuses on capturing bighorns from successful herds and relocating these sheep to other areas where the species once thrived.
Once their historic range was identified, the next obstacle was simply figuring out how to transport the animals -- a problem for which a creative solution was found:
Biologists found that the most effective and safest way to capture wild sheep was to fire large nets at them from moving helicopters. The bighorns, which can weigh several hundred pounds, are carried in bags beneath the helicopter to a handling area where veterinarians draw blood samples and examine the sheep for injuries and signs of disease. If the sheep are healthy, they are loaded onto a large trailer and transported to their new home.