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Remote water measuring sensor saves bighorn sheep

Posted July 31, 2020

Multiagency collaboration credited for the successful effort

PHOENIX — Earlier this month, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) received an alert from one of its solar-powered remote water sensors, located in the Chocolate Mountains near Yuma, indicating that a wildlife water catchment – critical to wildlife survival – was dry.

The sensors, developed and installed by the United States Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), deliver timely, remote notifications of significant water loss.

Concerned for the well-being of the animals, an AZGFD team hiked – in scorching heat – nearly 2 miles of steep terrain to assess the situation. Upon arrival, the team discovered the empty water catchment…and 15 bighorn sheep standing nearby. A broken pipe was responsible for the water shortage. The team mitigated the problem by turning on a back-up water system.

Without the real-time data from the electronic water measuring system, AZGFD would have not found the failure for weeks, which could have resulted in the death of bighorn sheep and other wild animals. In total, YPG has developed and installed four remote sensors on its property, where AZGFD manages several water catchments.

“Rain is unpredictable in southwest Arizona, and this requires innovative approaches and partnerships to protect wildlife,” said AZGFD Yuma Regional Supervisor Mike Sumner. “By continuing to foster our relationship with our partners at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground – who adapted existing range equipment to monitor these water sensors – we can develop affordable solutions to protect wildlife and provide them with the water they need to survive during dry periods.”

See a video clip.