USA -(Ammoland.com)- The Arizona Game and Fish Department is seeking information about the recent poaching of a desert bighorn sheep that was found near Yuma, Ariz.
A reward of up to $500 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the killing of the adult ram through the department’s Operation Game Thief program. The Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society is offering an additional reward of up to $500 for a conviction in the case.
The carcass was found floating in the Wellton-Mohawk Canal, where it meets the Gila Main Gravity Canal. Some portions of the hide, legs and head of the animal had been removed, and additional leg quarters were found floating in nearby Fortuna Pond.
Game and Fish officials believe the sheep was shot around the week of Oct. 9 and that the suspects might have been visiting or camping at Fortuna Pond during that timeframe.
“There is no justifiable reason to poach an animal during a closed season and leave it to waste,” said Richard Myers, wildlife manager. “Poachers are not hunters or sportsmen. They are criminals who are stealing from the residents of Arizona.
“Due to the location of the crime scene, a fisherman or an off-highway vehicle user near the area may have seen something or heard something that may assist officers in solving this case.”
Totally protected by the territorial legislature in 1893, bighorn sheep were not legal game in Arizona until 1953, when it was determined that the limited hunting of trophy desert bighorn rams might be the only way to save these animals.
Two limited desert bighorn sheep hunts of 20 permits each were authorized, and 20 desert bighorn were taken. Since then, permit numbers, the number of units open to hunting, the number of rams taken, and hunt success have gradually increased.
In 1984, Arizona began offering Rocky Mountain as well as desert bighorn sheep hunts. Between 80 and 100 hunt permits are authorized each year, mostly desert bighorns, with hunt success ranging between 90 and 95 percent.
- Breeding Period: September-November
- Young Appear: March-April or later
- Average Number of Young: 1-2
- Distribution: 90-4,500 ft, desert ranges of southern and western Arizona
- Habitat: Desert mountain ledges and grassy basins
- Food Preference: Fluff grass, catsclaw, ocotillo spurges, buckwheat, mescal, janusia, slim triodia, Indian wheat, filaree, and weeds in season
- Range: Extremely variable
- Live Weight: M-250lbs.; F-140lbs.
- Predators: Eagles, coyote, bobcat and mountain lion
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the department’s Operation Game Thief hotline at (800) 352-0700, or visit their website, and refer to case #17-004025. Callers can remain anonymous upon request.