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Bighorn Sheep Harassed by Drone at Zion National Park

May 07
15:41 2014

Volunteers at Zion National Park observed a herd of bighorn sheep harassed by a drone.  Volunteers witnessed the herd scattering at the approach of the remote controlled drone with several young sheep separated from the adults by the drone.  Harassment of wildlife within the park is illegal, as is the use of drones.

I am sure most people who fly drones have no desire to harm wildlife or endanger our other visitors. Many may not even know that it is illegal to fly a drone here at Zion. We hope that by educating the public about the reasons behind the restrictions, we will increase their understanding and compliance and help to protect the park.” – Jim Milestone/Park Superintendent

Rangers have seen a large increase in the use of drones within the park. Some visitors have complained about drones interrupting the usual peace of Zion’s soundscape and wilderness, while others have reported feeling unsafe as drones buzz through slot canyons and along exposed trails such as Angels Landing and Canyon Overlook.

The recent observation of the bighorn sheep encounter with a drone also demonstrates the negative impact they can have on the wildlife within Zion National Park, particularly in the spring when many animals are caring for their young.  In addition to impacting ground-based wildlife, drones may prevent birds from successfully nesting or may cause nests to be abandoned if the birds feel harassed.

Drones are a new challenge for Zion National Park and our mission of resource protection. Animals can be injured when attempting to escape or avoid drone activity. Drones can also change the natural behavior of wildlife and lead to unnecessary energy expenditures. This has the potential to affect survival and reproductive success in many species. We are therefore really concerned with drones, their effect on wildlife, and our ability to preserve the natural environment.”  – Cassie Waters/Wildlife Biologist

A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Its flight is controlled either autonomously by on-board computers or by remote control. The penalty for using a drone in Zion can be up to 6 months imprisonment and/or a $5000 fine.

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