Texas Desert Big Horn SheepThe last known native Texas big horn sheep was spotted in October of 1958. Today, with the help of many, big horn sheep number 991 in the far western reaches of the Lone Star state. The Jasper Newsboy is reporting that the census tallied a one-year increase in sheep of 169.

“It’s still kind of hard to believe,” said Mike Pittman, who oversees the three state wildlife management areas that form the nucleus of Texas’ bighorn sheep program. “We used to bust our tails trying to see 100 sheep in the Sierra Diablo Mountains because that meant we had what we considered a viable population.”

This year’s survey recorded more than 400 bighorn sheep in the Sierra Diablos, birthplace of the restoration effort more than 60 years ago after more than 11,000 acres were acquired by the state as a sanctuary for the last remaining bighorn.

Once protective measures were put in place, efforts got underway to see about the possibility of restoring the big horn sheep to the west Texas area.

With the help of private landowners willing to protect bighorns and their habitat on their ranches, support from the Texas Bighorn Society and hunters, the desert bighorn sheep has made a comeback. Stocking of sheep obtained from other western states during the last two decades and transplanting animals into suitable habitat have nudged the natural recovery process.

As part of the overall management of the sheep, officials will issue hunting permits to target what they call surplus sheep. A surplus ram is one that is older and “He becomes more reclusive from the herd and his physical appearance may be deteriorating. We know that he’s already contributed to the herd for several years. That’s what we consider a surplus animal.”

This year 13 permits will be issued, most of them going to private landowners.

Tom Remington