Bighorn Sheep find new home, and they're staying there

*Feature Photo: And they're off. The relocated sheep are released north of Rawlins. (Gary Sundberg / Pitchengine Communities) * (Lander, Wyo.) - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department along with help from multiple partners and area landowners relocated 24 bighorn sheep from the Devil’s Canyon herd near Lovell to the Ferris-Seminoe herd unit north of Rawlins on Feb. 20 and 21. Twenty-five bighorn sheep were captured using helicopter net-gunning consisting of 21 ewes, 1 male lamb and three young rams. All but the lamb and one ewe were marked with satellite telemetry collars. Unfortunately, one three-year old ewe suffered from apparent capture stress and was unable to move. She was euthanized and sent to the Wyoming state veterinary lab for necropsy and evaluation. The remaining twenty-four were released in Miner’s Canyon on the east end of the Ferris Mountains. *History* Attempted reintroduction of bighorn sheep into the Ferris and Seminoe Mountains began in the late 1940’s and extended into the 1980s. While survival of these sheep was good, both the Ferris and the Seminoe segments failed to thrive. It was discovered they were lambing too late in the spring, missing the flush of high-protein vegetation necessary for ewes to produce enough milk for lambs to survive. More recently, supplemental transplants of bighorn sheep were acquired from Oregon in 2009 and 2010, and from the Devil’s Canyon herd near Lovell in 2010 and 2015 and released in the Seminoe portion of the herd unit. These sheep typically lamb in late April and early May, when there is still adequate high-protein forage. Lamb production and survival improved and herd size increased, despite losses related to extensive wildfires and severe spring blizzards in April 2013. [image: Inline image 1] *(Photo by Greg Hiatt / Pitchengine Communities) * Wildlife Biologist Greg Hiatt says, “This has been our first attempt since the wildfires of 2011 and 2012 to reintroduce bighorn sheep into the Ferris Mountain portion of this herd. Since 2009, the sheep have come from a population of low elevation, non-migratory, early lambing sheep and we are hopeful that we’ve got the right type of sheep to thrive in these mountains.” *Wildfire Habitat Restoration* Since the recent wildfires in the Ferris and Seminoe Mountains, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has worked extensively on recovery efforts to prepare the habitat once again for bighorn sheep; replacing fences, applying herbicides for cheatgrass control, and repairing and adding guzzlers. Rangeland Management Specialist, Mike Murray with the BLM says, “The Ferris Mountain bighorn sheep release and habitat restoration work would not have been possible without support and cooperation from our many partners, including committed landowners who were even there that day opening roads so Game and Fish could reach the preferred release site. Landscape scale projects are difficult to implement, and include a countless number of moving parts; it’s only when all those parts and players are moving towards a common goal that we have this type of success.” *Staying home* As of early March the vast majority of the sheep are still on the mountain as expected. Twenty-two are in the head of Miner’s Canyon and two are on Bear Mountain just to the east. Assuming most of these sheep will remain in the Ferris Mountains and adding the expected recruitment from a 2016 lamb crop, the herd is expected to reach ~ 140 animals by fall of 2016. Since 2009, the many project partners have included neighboring land owners, BLM, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, State Lands, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, Water for Wildlife, Carbon County Weed and Pest District, Predator Management District Board, Saratoga Encampment Rawlins Conservation District, Sage-grouse Local Working Group, and the public. #county10 #oilcity #reboot #news