Amend Sheep Hunting Opportunities Within MU 5-4 and Create LEH Season

Regulation Number: 
2020-05-02
Status: 
Decided
Region: 
Region 5 - Cariboo
MU: 
5-4
Regulation Type: 
General Open Season
Limited Entry Hunting
Species: 
Bighorn Sheep
Closing Date: 
January 19, 2020 at midnight
Decision Statement: 

This regulation was approved as proposed and is included in the 2020-2022 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Synopsis.

Current Regulations: 

GENERAL OPEN SEASON

Bighorn Mountain Sheep

5-2, 5-4*

Full Curl Bighorn Rams

Sept 10 - Oct 20

1

*Portion of MU 5-4 only

Proposed Regulations: 

GENERAL OPEN SEASON

Bighorn Mountain Sheep

5-2

Full Curl Bighorn Rams

Sept 10 - Oct 20

1

LIMITED ENTRY HUNTING

Taseko Mountain        5-04     C         Sept 10-Oct 20            At least full curl

Rationale: 

1) Close Nemaia and Tsunia Portions of MU 5-04:

Historically the Nemaia area supported a population of approximately 100-150 bighorn sheep. Surveys conducted in the winters of 2012 and 2013 resulted in total counts of 27 and 34 sheep respectively. An additional survey was conducted in 2014 which appeared to indicate some population recovery (count of 58). However, the most recent survey in 2018 indicates that recovery has stalled (count of 53).  As evidenced through repeat surveys from 2012 through 2018, there are insufficient bighorn sheep remaining in this population to continue maintaining a hunting season. The provincial bighorn sheep harvest procedure requires a minimum population of 75 Bighorn sheep to maintain or open a hunting season.  This closure is required to eliminate possible negative impacts of licenced hunting and support recovery of this high elevation resident Bighorn sheep population. Currently no other populations of high elevation California bighorn exist in the region with sufficiently healthy populations to use as transplant stock.

The Nemaia and Tsunia Sheep are located entirely within Aboriginal Declared Title Area.  Xeni Gwet’in First Nation leadership has indicated a strong desire to close the licenced sheep hunt within Title given concerns regarding the population status.  Currently, Xeni Gwet’in First Nation are not allowing licenced hunters to hunt within the Title Area.

2) Close Taseko Mountain Portions of MU 5-04 and implement LEH season:

The Taseko Mountain area was closed to sheep hunting in 1993 due to survey results indicating a population decrease from approximately 100+ sheep to between 30 and 40 bighorn sheep.  The population remained low through the 1990s and 2000s.  In 2016, an updated survey of the Taseko sheep counted 106 sheep, a 100% increase from the 2012 count of 53 and a return to historic abundance levels.  In 2018 the Taseko sheep were resurveyed counting a total of 81. The current number of sheep in the Taseko population is close to the minimum population of 75 sheep required to maintain a licenced hunting season. 

The Taseko Mountain portion of MU 5-04 was reopened, through a general open season, for full-curl bighorn sheep for the 2018 hunting season.  Managers underestimated the interest in the new hunting opportunity and hunter effort has exceeded expectations.  The high concentration of hunters in the limited area of Taseko sheep habitat has led to conflict between hunting groups, safety concerns, enforcement issues, and concern regarding high disturbance levels and unsustainable harvest for the sheep population.  The 2018 licenced harvest of five (5) exceeded the Annual Allowable Harvest which is currently set at three (3) sheep.  Reports from Conservation Officers indicate that 2019 harvest will likely also exceed the AAH.

Given the very high interest in the Taseko bighorn sheep hunt from resident hunters and limited availability of harvest, FLNRORD is proposing to close the current open season and implement a Limited Entry Hunting season. 

Additional Information: 

Since 1979 there have been periodic aerial surveys for bighorn sheep in management unit 5-04. Aerial surveys were conducted in the winters of 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018.  Surveys were total count surveys following RISC standards.  Survey flights are conducted immediately after fresh snowfall in the mountains allowing efficient tracking of sheep groups.  Given the open, high-elevation habitat the sheep in MU 5-04 inhabit, and efforts to time surveys to allow effective tracking, biologists estimate that a low proportion of sheep are missed during surveys.

Figure 1. Aerial Survey counts for Nemaia bighorn sheep from 1991 to 2018.

Figure 2. Aerial Survey counts for Taseko bighorn sheep from 1979 to 2018