Despite the best efforts from Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Unit 54 bighorn sheep herd is a non-viable population with very few sheep left in the unit. The current number of rams in the unit is unknown, but there are likely few mature rams left in the herd.
From 1986-1993, Idaho Department of Fish and Game conducted three releases of bighorn sheep in game management unit 54 (Big Cottonwood and East Fork of Dry Creek) in an attempt to reestablish a viable sheep population. In 1989, the bighorns in Big Cottonwood experienced a die-off and despite additional releases, numbers continued to decline. In 2010, we estimated <15 bighorn sheep were persisting in unit 54 and that reintroduction efforts were impractical due to the proximity of domestic sheep and goats, motorized recreation, and habitat issues such as juniper encroachment.
In 2017 the department implemented two sheep hunts in unit 54 (3 total tags) with the intent to provide hunters an opportunity to harvest sheep in a herd that is slowly disappearing. All three tag holders in 2017 harvested mature rams. However, we are uncertain at this time how many rams remain. As such, expectations of success in unit 54 hunts (Hunt No. 7008 and 7009) are lower than other bighorn sheep hunts. We wanted potential bighorn sheep hunters to have this information before they decide to apply for a South Hills sheep tag. If you have questions or need more information please contact the Magic Valley Regional Office at 324-4359.