Saturday, September 26, 2015

On Forced Bighorn Relocation and Death in Arizona...

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

 I reproduce the text of the article, because headlines and links disappear over the years.

As we consider most bighorn-sheep related news to be important, we archived the report here.

Commentary on the article will come from us soon.

Deaths of bighorn sheep in Arizona spark controversy over conservation effort

    This photo, obtained by, shows part of the bighorn sheep herd relocated from Yuma to the Catalina mountains, just north of Tuscon. (George Andrejko/Arizona Game and Fish Department)
Some animal welfare groups are pushing for an end to the project, but wildlife officials say the conservation effort is not a failure and expect the projected $600,000, three-year plan to result in greater numbers of bighorns in an area where they once co-existed with mountain lions for centuries.

The issue, say Arizona wildlife officials and biologists, is a complex one.

Bighorn sheep, a gregarious, herd-forming species, once thrived in large numbers across the western U.S. until their population dropped dramatically over the past 100 years -- for reasons biologists continue to study, such as disease, fires or loss of water source. Wildlife officials in Arizona estimate the current count to be around 6,000 in the state, and they are working with conservationists to rebuild a herd that disappeared from the Tucson range in the 1990s.

Last November, the Arizona Game and Fish Department implemented the first phase of a three-year plan to transplant the creatures from the Yuma area into the Catalinas, where they once lived. Wildlife officials in the state said they spent $150,000 -- none of which was taxpayer money -- to catch 31 bighorns by helicopter, place satellite transmitter collars on them and transport the herd to the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson.

Four months later, 15 of the bighorns had been killed by mountain lions that thrive in the area -- leaving some animal welfare advocates to question whether such a plan was prudent on the part of an independent panel formed by state wildlife officials.

The Catalina Bighorn Advisory Committee -- comprised of groups such as the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, the Wilderness Society and the Center for Biological Diversity — had recommended that officials not kill any mountain lions prior to the transplant of bighorns.

After nearly half the bighorn herd was killed, state wildlife officials in turn killed two mountain lions -- leading to protests by individuals who claimed the big cats should not be targeted for acting as natural predators in the wild.

 An editorial published last December in the Arizona Republic posed a question at the heart of the controversy: "Re-creating a bighorn population in the Catalina Mountains is a good goal that may result in the loss of some individual animals. How many are too many? When does the project cross the line from ambitious and worthy to sacrificial and cruel?"

The Arizona Game and Fish Department and its supporters stand by the transplant decision, although Jim Paxon, special assistant to director Larry Voyles, said "in hindsight, we should have taken out some mountain lions."

 "Conservation of wildlife is never easy, never quick and is often what biology professors call messy," Paxon told He said the plan moving forward is toassess areas in the Catalinas where the bighorns have the greatest chance of survival and place additional sheep there in the fall. He said the hope is that the remaining bighorn transplants and their lambs will move toward the new herd. Paxon also said some mountain lions near the determined location will be killed, but stressed that officials are not planning a "wholesale removal of mountain lions across the Catalinas."

 "All we’re doing is removing mountain lions that prey on bighorn sheep in the best habitat area for those sheep," he said, adding that the mountain lion population is "not only healthy, it's thriving and expanding."

 Critics, however, say the current plan should be stopped immediately.

 "I don’t think that they really thought this out," said Ricardo Small, of the group Friends of Wild Animals, adding that, "this decision was pushed by hunters."

 "The response to mountain lion killings of bighorn sheep has been to kill the mountain lions.

 That's a mistake," Small said. "When competition among mountain lions is removed, the litter sizes of the females increase and the result is more mountain lions than were there to begin with."

 "I think that the Arizona Game and Fish Department should stop this program completely. It's a waste of bighorn sheep and a waste of mountain lion."

 But supporters of the group claim it's premature to abandon efforts to rebuild a population that once thrived in the Catalinas.

Kevin Murphy, conservation director of the Wild Sheep Foundation, called the bighorn deaths "frustrating," but said he was fully supportive of the plan in place. He also noted that the transplanted herd successfully birthed lambs and said more are expected in the coming months.

"Wildlife management is not a perfect exact science," Murphy told "You can't measure the success yet. It’s designed to be a three-phase release."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Fantastic Once in a Lifetime Luck in the Virgin River Gorge

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

January 8, 2015: On I-15, between Littlefield, Arizona and the Utah state line.

To me, the Virgin River Gorge is a jaw-dropping spot.  I-15's four lanes twist their way through the gorge, the highway elevated above the Virgin River.  This portion of I-15 cuts through the Arizona Strip, a remote portion of Arizona, more accessible to Salt Lake City than to Phoenix.

To photographers and tourists, the Virgin River Gorge is a challenge.  The challenge is, the gorge is so narrow the highway lacks shoulders or pull-off's.  So, there is no stopping or even slowing down to capture a photo in the gorge.  I find the inability to photograph this spot depressing.

However, today I was graced with good luck.  I had he opportunity to view the gorge and take photos that few tourists ever can.  Personally, I did not care about the uniqueness or whether others had been able to photograph here.  I only cared about me being given the opportunity to photographically capture one of the most captivating spots I have ever passed through.  

So, how did this lucky opportunity arise?

I woke up about 6:30AM.  I tried to take a shower in my Virgin River Hotel and Casino room.  I was frustrated over the lack of hot water.  You may not know this about me, but I love the hot shower.  I am one of those persons that comes out of the shower lobster red.  But not this morning…I had to subject myself to the cool water of the room’s shower and then race to get dressed.

I topped off my gas tank and ice chest at a gas/food market immediately next to the highway interchange.  Sure I cannot drive without gas, but more important is my precious life elixir Coke will not remain cold if my cooler is not topped out.  The price of ice I do not recall; the price of gas of course keeps a spot in my mind and journal as gas prices are falling at the moment.  The gas did seem like a bargain at the $2.40 range.  I would find out in a couple of days that just a few hundred feet (in other words not even a mile) south of the highway exit I kept using to get on and off I-15, gasoline was about $1.97, about $0.50 gallon cheaper than across Pioneer Drive from the Casino and right next to the highway.   

I left Mesquite, Nevada around 7:15 AM for Cedar City, Utah.  I was interested in seeing if there was any way to get any pictures by driving through the I-15 gorge.  I took Hillside Driver east out of Mesquite.  Hillside generally runs parallel to I-15 for a few miles east of Mesquite.  As a historical side note,  Hillside Drive was US91, the historical route from the Utah Territory to the Las Vegas Valley of the Nevada Territory.

A Hillside Drive turnoff (Scenic Road) takes you on a five-mile drive towards some hills and across a small slice of the Virgin River.  The narrow slice of this typically scenic river was remarkably unscenic and therefor I did not even stop for a picture.  

I drove back to Hillside Drive and headed north/east.  Hillside veers away from I-15 for a few miles as the two roads become separated by some rocks known as the Virgin Moutains until I-15 becomes visible again and Hillside prepares to cross I-15 at Littlefield, AZ, heading north into an ancient Joshua tree forest.  I got on the 15, heading north towards Salt Lake City, well really Cedar City.  I accelerated up to the 70 mph or so local speed, turned up the music and prepared to drive through the gorge.

But not this morning.  It was not very long before I was slowing down to a stand still.  I was stopped behind a parked escort truck.  

I was indifferent at the moment as to whether or how long the delay would be.  The unique opportunity this moment was posing did not immediately hit me in the face.  But then, I was like...huh?  How long will I be here?  Who cares, it is picture time.  I unpacked my camera and got out of the car.

Looking up the North Side Wall of the Gorge
Llooking back towards Littlefield and looking south. You can see how the Gorge is in the shadow.

I heard some noise.  Though hard to see, there is a rock slide going on.

Hard to see worker up on he top of the southern wall of the Gorge.

Easier to see man hanging from the gorge

Here Comes Everyone Else - Off to St. George we go!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One of These Things is Not Like the Others

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

January 10, 2015: North of Dyer, Nevada is the Fish Lake Valley.  It is a remote place, just east of the White Mountains, which form the border between Nevada and California.

It is a rugged place, and I presume filled with educated folks.  However, somewhere, sometime, someone made a mistake...