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Big Horn Sheep Capture

By Kat Tomalty, Stanford BS ’04, MS ’06 currently 2nd yr at UC Davis Veterinary School in combined DVM/Ph.D program

This spring break (’09) I was lucky enough to participate in a field course on restraint and capture of wild ungulates and small carnivores. In addition to learning about chemical restraint and tracking methods, we had the opportunity to participate in a Big Horn sheep capture near Bishop with the California Department of Fish and Game. Despite the protected status of this species and a slow but heartening increase in numbers, there are fears that respiratory diseases transmitted from domestic sheep may be endangering this population. The goal of the capture was to attempt to identify any pathogens which may be infecting this population, as well to tag individuals to assess how population numbers had changed from the 200 or so individuals estimated a few years ago.

For 4 days we got up at the crack of dawn and caravanned with Fish and Game veterinarians and biologists to the day’s staging site. We would set up and wait for the helicopter pilot and crew to radio in the location of the first sheep. Because of the risk of aspiration with anesthetized Big Horns, only physical restraint was used. The helicopter crew would capture a sheep using a net fired from a specialized gun and then package the sheep into a “sheep bag” which was then delivered to us at base camp. Once the sheep arrived, we mobilized in small

Issue 2, August 2009

PreVet Club Newsletter

Page 3

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