Gnarly airborne mission underway in Southern Nevada to help the protect the local bighorn sheep population from dehydration. The Nevada Department of Wildlife says another year of extreme drought conditions has made it necessary to bring the water to them and their remote locations requires airlifted deliveries.

KVVU reports the agency is hauling approximately 55,000 gallons of water to as many as 12 “guzzlers” located in mountain ranges across Southern Nevada. Hauling additional water will relieve drought-related stress on Southern Nevada’s desert bighorn sheep population, but the water will benefit all species.

Guzzlers are drinker systems that collect rainwater in large tanks. In normal non-drought years, they are a valuable addition to natural precipitation and help to carry wildlife through the hot and dry summer months. However, water supplies in the guzzlers have not been replenished with seasonal rains.

“Normally it’s the seasonal rains we get between November and February that fills these tanks up and then they get replenished with the monsoons. We really haven’t had either one of those for a while.” –Douglas Nielsen of NDOW.

The parched guzzlers now require manmade intervention. Because they are located in remote locations, NDOW used helicopters to transport about 180 gallons at a time to the remote guzzlers. The choppers use Bambi Buckets similar to the carriers used to fight fires to transport the water. Wildlife experts view these deliveries as life-saving for thirsty bighorn sheep herds and other wildlife.

“In 1967 we had about 2,500 to 3,000 bighorn sheep statewide and today thanks to projects like guzzlers or our trapping and transplanting efforts, we’re up to about 12,000 sheep statewide.” 

It’s not the first year the agency has done this. In 2020, NDOW and partners hauled more than 167,000 gallons of water to 30 different guzzlers in Nevada.

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