For bid: the smug satisfaction of shooting a wild mountain sheep ram in B.C. outside of the regular hunting season. Expected selling price: upward of $250,000 US.
That’s what the B.C. government is offering this weekend at a conservation fundraising auction during the annual convention of the Wild Sheep Foundation in Reno, Nevada. Proceeds from the auction go to the province’s Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation — 75 per cent to sheep-related projects and 25 per cent to other wildlife enhancement projects.
From 2000 to 2010, the province raised almost $1.6 million from similar auctions offering special hunts for mountain sheep and Roosevelt elk, according to a trust foundation report.
“It has certainly paid for itself in terms of conservation,” Andrew Wilson, director of B.C.’s wildlife branch, said in an interview from Victoria. Money from past auctions has been used for projects such as habitat enhancement, mapping of critical range, separation of domestic sheep from wild sheep to reduce disease transmission, and relocation of sheep to bolster smaller herds.
Last year, a hunter paid a record $250,000 US for the B.C. special sheep hunt, which is part bragging rights and part altruistic desire to improve the productivity of wild sheep. Past hunts in recent years have raised closer to $130,000 to $150,000. The sheep foundation keeps 15 per cent of the winning bid for putting on the auction.
The successful bidder is permitted to hunt outside the regular season wherever sheep are normally hunted; if a non-resident wins, which is almost always the case, he or she must hire a licensed B.C. guide-outfitter. The hunter can shoot either a Dall or Stone thinhorn sheep — found in northern B.C. — or a California or Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, found in southern parts of the province. Based on past experience, successful bidders prefer to hunt bighorn sheep. Bighorns, as well as Dall sheep, are “blue listed” as species of special concern in B.C.
To keep resident hunters happy, an annual lottery is offered to British Columbians for a similar hunt; the winner only pays the going rate for a sheep tag, which is currently $60.
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