Nature Trust looks to acquire Okanagan property for bighorn sheep

The B.C. conservation group, Nature Trust, wants to buy a parcel of land in B.C.'s Okanagan to increase the grazing area for a herd of bighorn sheep.

The group is looking at an 34.5 hectare piece of land which borders the McTaggart-Cowan/Nsək'łniw't Wildlife Management Area near Skaha Lake (which forms the southern shoreline of Penticton, B.C.).

Jasper Lament, the CEO of the Nature Trust, says there's about 500 sheep that use this stretch of habitat from Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park all the way down to the U.S. border.

"This [particular] property is an important part of their range. It's used for lambing, which is taking place right now. It also provides foraging habitat and is just an important part of their core range," he explained.

The sheep seek out quiet areas, caves and ledges when they're ready to give birth, Lament said, making it particularly important that area is free from human disruption and disturbance.

Another reason Lament wants to acquire the land is to maintain the separation between the bighorn sheep population and the domestic sheep population.

"There was a big die-off of bighorn sheep in the Okanagan back in 1999 and the population has recovered, but there continues to be challenges related to diseases that affect bighorn sheep," he said. "It's important to keep bighorn sheep separated from domestic sheep because of the risk of the disease transmission."

The family that owns the property is willing to sell it to the conservation group, but the group is seeking donations to cover the $1.3 million cost for land acquisition and management by the deadline of June 30. 

Listen to the interview with Jasper Lament on Daybreak South: