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Record $480K bid for Montana bighorn tag

Two Montana bighorn rams battle for breeding superiority during the December mating season. ©Jaime Johnson (Jaime Johnson)
Two Montana bighorn rams battle for breeding superiority during the December mating season. ©Jaime Johnson (Jaime Johnson)

HUNTING -- An anonymous hunter has paid an all-time record $480,000 for a special permit offered by the state of Montana to hunt a wild mountain sheep with liberal rules on dates and areas.

The winning bids for tags offered by Montana and other states, tribes and provinces were made in four auctions at the annual convention of the Wild Sheep Foundation held at Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Reno, Nev.

Wild sheep tags are auctioned at the convention to raise money for wildlife conservation.  And this was a banner year, where some 40 tags raised a record $3.2 million.

The 2013 Wild Sheep Foundation Convention and Sporting Expo set six records for the highest amounts bid on auction for special permits. Other records were set for overall attendance and funds raised for wildlife and other  programs.

The Montana bighorn sheep tag bid of $480,000 shattered the state's record of $300,000 set in 2012.

  • The bid also surpassed the foundation's previous all-time record bid of $405,000 for a bighorn sheep tag, set in 1999 for the Alberta’s Minister’s Special License.

The British Columbia permit sold for $275,000, topping the province's record of $250,000 set last year.

The Oregon Rocky Mountain bighorn permit brought $135,000 bettering the $130,000 record set in 2011.

WASHINGTON'S bighorn tag sold for $64,000, down from the record $100,000 set in 1994 before a pneumonia epidemic nearly wiped out the state's trophy herds near the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers. 

IDAHO'S bighorn tag sold for $150,00, down from a record bid of $180,000 in 2005.

Although this year's bids for Idaho and Washington tags didn't set records, the wildlife managers for those states said they were very pleased with the bids.

The Wild Sheep Foundation, which keeps an overall average of 7 percent of the bid prices for its worldwide programs, has pledged millions of dollars to research to help fight diseases affecting wild sheep in the Snake River region of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $90 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia.

The tag auctions began in 1980 with the Wyoming Governor's Tag.

These and other efforts have resulted in a four-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-70s lows of  about 17,000 to about 70,000 today, foundation officials say.

Click "continue reading" for more details and milestones set at the 2013 convention:

• Due to conservation efforts by New Mexico Game & Fish and organizations such as New Mexico WSF and WSF, a special New Mexico desert bighorn tag was offered for the first time and brought $180,000 equaling the $180,000 record bid for the New Mexico Rocky Mountain tag sold this year.

• The tag that started it all 33 years ago, the Wyoming bighorn permit brought $70,000 setting another record for that coveted permit.

Other notable sales included $150,000 for the Idaho bighorn permit; $120,000 for the New Mexico Big Game Enhancement Package;  $160,000 for the Arizona permit and $181,000 for the Alaska Chugach Dall’s permit.

In total more than $3.19 million was raised for wild sheep and wildlife through the sale of these and other special permits and more than $5 million was raised overall during the event for wildlife conservation efforts through North America and the world.

 The foundation says 100% of the dollars raised for these permits are directed to state, provincial, tribal and WSF conservation initiatives to help “Put and Keep Sheep on the Mountain™.”

While the special permits sales to many are the highlight of the annual WSF event, a defining moment for most of the WSF 2013 convention was when a USA Flag, which had flown over Bragram Airfield, Afghanistan, was sold to benefit the Wounded Warriors Outdoors Program brought $100,000 during the Saturday Grand Finale event.

The Sheep Show returns to Reno, January 22-25, 2014.

The Wild Sheep Foundation, formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS,) was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. With a membership of more than 5,500 worldwide and a chapter network in North America, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, wild goats, other mountain wildlife, and their habitat.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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