Albuquerque, NM - New Mexico's bighorn sheep will be outfitted with chic new collars, complete with miniature radio receivers in a desperate attempt to keep the endangered animals from becoming extinct. An "army" of scientific researchers, equipped with tranquilizer guns, will shoot the animals on sight, rendering them unconscious. Then, the collars will be locked around their necks. Upon awakening, the animals will reenter the wild.
"It's a big deal, and it's expensive," Elise Goldman, a bighorn sheep biologist with the State Fish and Game Department admitted, "but what price can one put in the head of a bighorn sheep? They're amazing, beautiful animals."
(Retail, sheep's heads sell at about 18.5 per pound.)
The sheep once roamed over a dozen mountain ranges in central and northern New Mexico, numbering in the millions. However, drought, predators, disease, and the animals' own stupidity have decimated their once-impressive numbers.
"That's where the collar comes in," Goldman explained. "An electric shock can be transmitted via satellite, and the animals can be conditioned to associate various numbers of successive shocks with such behaviors as mating, eating, drinking water, and fleeing from mountain lions. These behaviors are instinctive to most animals, but the bighorns are too stupid to act even on such basic unconscious drives. They have to be shocked into action."
Maybe their time has come and gone, critics contend. "Once, they might have been a vital food source for smarter, faster, more powerful animals," Leslie Granger suggested, "but that's before people started feeding lions and bears, as if they were domesticated pets instead of fierce predators. With handouts, the pumas and grizzlies don't need--and maybe don't want--mutton anymore."
Goldman rejects the argument that the animals' stupidity may be nature's way of thinning out the herd--or of eliminating bighorn sheep altogether.
These arguments, Goldman declared, are "preposterous." There's a place in the natural scheme of things for the lowliest and the stupidest of animals, she maintained. "How else would we explain purse pooches, lapdogs, and Hillary?"