It’s Insane How Bighorn Sheep Are Caught For Relocation

guy wrestles sheep
Steve Rinella

In general, wildlife conservationists embrace the “leave it alone” method for letting nature balance itself out, but sometimes they have to step in and go hands on for the benefit of a targeted species or herd.

A great example of the hands on approach to wildlife management is the introduction of Texas cougars to southern Florida to increase genetic diversity and increase breeding opportunities for the native and nearly extinct Florida panther in the 1990’s. The cougars were trapped in Texas, sedated, and then carefully transported to Florida where they were released after passing multiple medical exams and testing.

But, as strange as this statement is about to sound, not all animals are as easy to catch as a cougar (outside of a dive bar), and this video proves just that.

Steven Rinella of Meateater posted a video which shows a particularly rough and tumble capture of a bighorn sheep that would be relocated to help bolster a struggling nearby herd.

I was not familiar with the process of bighorn sheep capture until seeing this video, but an article in KUT News explains the general process.

Basically, a helicopter swoops down on some sheep and catches one in a net. Then, a person called a “mugger” jumps out of the chopper, blindfolds the sheep, ties up their legs, and wraps them in a full-body sling for transport to where ever they’re taking it.

That tells me that even in the best of cases it’s a pretty sketchy operation…

This video shows what happens when things don’t go quite to plan.

We don’t know what lead to this, but apparently they were targeting two sheep and weren’t able to get either in the net and both ran into a small cave on the side of a cliff to get out of harms way. Before watching this I would have assumed those on the mission would regroup and try again another time, but this one mugger was hell-bent on getting his hands on a sheep and decided to go above and beyond.

He ran into the cave, grabbed one in his arms, and pulled it outside, where the two proceeded to wrestle and tumble and kick their way down the cliff until the mugger was able to get his feet under him and secure the sheep.

Just watch it for yourself because I don’t think you realize how crazy this is just from reading about it:

“A fella came to our live show the other night who was involved in a desert bighorn relocation project almost a decade ago where they were capturing animals to supplement another herd.

The job you’re seeing here is called a mugger. And yes, the sheep was fine. And so was the mugger, mostly.”

I mean, the cojones on that guys are astounding. You’re going to barrel into a cave where two spooked creatures capable of ramming you with more force than an NFL linebacker are sitting and waiting? Truly, I cannot imagine doing that.

Rinella says both the mugger and sheep were fine, at least for the most part, but this makes me respect the work conservationists do even more.

We really got people out here tackling sheep on cliffsides, huh?

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock