Three bighorn lambs have been seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains, but at the expense of three mountain lions and 15 bighorn sheep, as of this week.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed the most recent bighorn sheep death in the Santa Catalina Mountains happened on Sunday, March 7.
Its death is currently being investigated. On Sunday, March 2, a sheep was killed by a mountain lion and the following day, the mountain lion believed to be the one that killed the sheep was killed by game and fish officials.
The lion was tracked from the carcass of the sheep, and was found within a half mile. The 7 to 9-year-old male lion is thought to have killed up to three other collared sheep, because of its size and closeness to the group of sheep.
The most recent sheep to die was a member of the largest group of sheep that has formed within the reintroduction project. After this incident, the group has since scattered.
Supporting and Promoting Ethics for the Animal Kingdom (SPEAK) and members of the Friends of Wild Animals called a news conference during the weekend at the Oro Valley town offices, which is where the Arizona Game and Fish Commission was meeting.
Prior to these deaths, the department said a bighorn sheep was killed by a mountain lion on Friday, Feb. 21. When a person with the department approached the area where the mortality alert came from, they came across a mountain lion. After determining the sheep was killed by a mountain lion, they began to pursue it for the next few days, but they were unable to locate it.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, another sheep was killed by what appeared to be a mountain lion. Because the sheep had been killed a significant time prior, officials did not attempt to find the mountain lion.
The original release of 31 sheep on Nov. 18, 2013, consisted of 21 adult females or ewes, three juvenile ewes, five adult rams, and two juvenile rams. Thirty of the released sheep were outfitted with satellite GPS collars to provide managers with up-to-date information to help make adaptive, data-driven decisions.