By Craig Foster, OHA Advisory Council Member, and Tyler Dungannon, Conservation Coordinator The bighorn sheep population on the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge has substantially declined, and inventory data indicate that the mule deer population on the refuge has also declined considerably. Continued bighorn decline could lead to either the extirpation of the population or trap them in a “predator pit” where low numbers remain, but the population cannot increase under the pressure of predation. Cougar predation is especially OHA supports Hart Mountain habitat improvement, predator management impactful when bighorn sheep density is low and individual cougars become “bighorn sheep specialists.” Based on the observed data, both the USFWS and ODFW believe this is the case for the Hart Mountain bighorn sheep herd, and OHA supports that conclusion. OHA submitted comments to the USFWS and emphasized that implementation of the cougar control measures presented in the Draft Hart Mountain Bighorn Sheep Management Plan is the best management decision for reversing the current bighorn and mule deer population decline
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