British Columbia

Rare bighorn sheep illegally shot at roadside in the Okanagan

Conservation officers are searching for the person responsible for shooting a rare California bighorn sheep in the Okanagan.

'I guarantee it suffered,' conservation officer says after carcass found north of Kelowna

A herd of bighorn sheep in B.C. (B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

WARNING: This story contains an image that some people may find upsetting.

Conservation officers are asking for the public's help in finding a poacher responsible for illegally shooting a rare California bighorn sheep in the Okanagan.

A passing motorist discovered the carcass of the young adult ram dumped beside Westside Road in Shelter Cove, around 20 kilometres north of Kelowna, on March 20.   

Conservation officers performed a necropsy at the scene and determined the animal was killed by gunshot. The carcass remained intact, despite its value as a trophy.

"It appears to just have been shot for the purposes of watching it die," said Sgt. Terry Myroniuk with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service. "I guarantee it suffered."

The maximum fine for poaching bighorns in B.C is $100,000 and one year in prison. Penalties are higher in other Canadian jurisdictions.

Any hunting or discharge of firearms along the road is illegal.

"This is the act of a poacher and a criminal, not a hunter," said Myroniuk. "Responsible hunters find this disgusting."

A motorist discovered the carcass of the ram dumped beside Westside Road on March 20. (Handout: B.C. Conservation Officer Service)

The area is home to a herd of approximately 75 California bighorn sheep. The animals are considered a "blue list" species of concern in B.C. because of their low numbers and declining habitat. They are likely to become either threatened or endangered without further protection.

The province has made efforts to maintain local herds in the face of human encroachment and natural predation.   

"The population has been supplemented with additional animals via translocations on several occasions to help maintain viable numbers," the conservation officer service stated in a news release. "No licensed harvest of bighorn sheep occurs in this area."

Signs on the side of the road warn drivers of the animals, and sightings of the skittish sheep often draw crowds of  onlookers. 

Conservation officers are urging anyone with information on the shooting, or any other illegal wildlife activity, to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277 or contact the nearest conservation officer service district office.