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  • Guest
« on: April 02, 2006, 02:19:31 PM »
BIGGER Black Gap Wildlife Management Area - BBGWMA.


Posted on Sun, Apr. 02, 2006  


Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Bighorn sheep, once extinct in Texas, are thriving in the mountains of the Big Bend area, thanks in large part to an all-volunteer conservation group.

About 65 members of the Texas Bighorn Society, including many from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, were at the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area last weekend, building a water guzzler for bighorn sheep, just as the nonprofit organization's members have done annually for years.

Plus, within the past 18 months, the group has raised $200,000 for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to purchase about 4,000 acres of sheep habitat, society president David Wetzel said. Last weekend, the group pledged an additional $100,000 to help purchase land that will expand the size of the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

"We are made up of a lot of hunters, and a large number of us never have hunted sheep and probably never will," Wetzel said. "We have a very strong belief that the sheep belong on the mountains there. And they make a very good barometer for the health of the mountains."

Approximately 800 bighorn sheep now live in the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas -- about 800 more than before the Texas Bighorn Society was formed in 1981. The group hopes to push the population to more than 1,500.

Wetzel said about 1,500 bighorn sheep were in the area before settlers arrived, but none remained by the 1960s.

"Their demise largely was brought about when the railroad came in and there was market hunting, but the real reason they went into extinction was the introduction of domestic sheep into the area in the 1930s and 1940s that brought diseases the bighorns were not used to," Wetzel said.

Efforts to rebuild the Texas bighorn population were made in the 1950s with the introduction of sheep obtained from western states to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area, but all the sheep were lost to mountain lions and the program was abandoned.

When the Texas Bighorn Society was established in 1981, efforts to re-establish the bighorn population were renewed. Members raised $200,000 to help build brood pens on the Sierra Diablo Wildlife Management Area to house 170 sheep obtained from other states.

Water, normally scarce in the sheep's mountainous habitat, soon became more readily available at the water guzzlers built by the society; they have built more than 50.

The new water guzzler looks like an inverted, slanted metal roof that is about 24 feet square with a collecting trough in the center. Water collected through rainfall, dew or even frost is piped into two large 2,500-gallon tanks and then plumbed out to a float-control "drinker" that provides a year-round water source.

After the sheep were removed from the extinct classification, hunting was allowed -- on a very limited basis -- starting in 1988. Only 58 permits have been issued, many of them sold by auction or raffle to raise money for the restoration program.

"Hunting opportunities are very limited and always will be," Wetzel said. "Most people never will have a chance to hunt them. Of these permits, 89 percent [of the hunters] were successful and 53 percent took Boone and Crockett Club rams."

One permit will be auctioned at the group's annual fundraiser, the Texas Bighorn Society Roundup, later this month.

"Basically, the sheep belong out there," Wetzel said. "We work diligently to make that happen."


To help

Texas Bighorn Society Roundup fundraiser

April 21-22, Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West

Cost: $65-$165 through April 11; $95-$225 afterward

Auction and raffle: Many items, including two bighorn permits, one in Texas and one in Mexico.

Information: David Wetzel, (972) 259-3699, or www.texasbighornsoc
Bob Hood, (817) 390-7760  
2006 Star-Telegram and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.



  • Guest
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2006, 03:52:28 PM »
Thanks, Shanea for sharing this!  It is so good to read of these types of success stories with respect to wildlife management.




  • Guest
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2006, 06:29:24 PM »
BGWMA is an outstanding place.  If you ever get a spare day, it is well worth the driving tour.  Of course, no trip to this area is complete w/o a stop at the Stillwell Store and the La Linda bridge.  Superb writeup on the BGWMA in the "Official Guide to Texas Wildlife Management Areas". by Hodge, Larry D.  TPWD Press.  1st Edition.  2000.



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