Cover photo: The eastern slope of Mount Darby. Photo by Jaden Bales
Hunting a ram from the Darby Mountain Bighorn Sheep Herd is one of the most sought-after big game experiences for Wyoming hunters. The conservation efforts to keep this herd healthy are at risk of being undone with the recent Bridger-Teton National Forest proposal to replace the “Reintroduction Areas of Bighorn Sheep Range Standard” in the Forest Plan with an updated “Bighorn Sheep Conservation Standard”.
The Darby Mountain herd was once extirpated from the Wyoming Range as a result of competition with domestic sheep and poaching. The amendment proposes to open intentionally bought-out grazing allotments to restocking for domestic sheep. WWF and our partners worked to buy out these allotments and compensate livestock producers to ensure a healthy bighorn herd can survive. The result would mean these bighorn sheep would be in danger of regaining the same competition with domestic sheep that contributed to their extirpation from this area.
The herd has stabilized in recent years and is one of Wyoming’s healthy populations of sheep. The Darby herd is not designated a “core native herd by the state.” Though the Darby herd is a non-emphasis herd by WGFD, that does not mean the Forest Service should be taking a step backward in protections and while the proposed amendment would strengthen protections for “core native herds”, the Darby herd will be left unprotected. The vulnerability of bighorn sheep populations and significant disease challenges with traditionally robust bighorn herds leaves Wyoming in a position where the state cannot afford to sacrifice another bighorn sheep herd.
Please add your comment in opposition to this amendment for grazing domestic sheep allotments. All comments are due June 7, 2021.