Colorado Group to Research Bighorn Sheep Management

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recently launched the Bighorn Sheep Working Group, a working group to promote discussion between multiple stakeholders on balancing habitat for bighorn and domestic sheep in Colorado. The working group will address common challenges of mixing species on multi-use lands and seek to provide consistent planning on this topic for domestic producers and wildlife managers.

“We want both bighorn and domestic sheep to thrive in Colorado,” said Reid DeWalt, assistant director for wildlife and natural resources. “We sought out multiple opinions in this working group in order to create best practices to promote viable bighorn sheep populations and a vibrant domestic sheep industry.”

Photo courtesy Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

The group, which first met in November 2016, will rely on the best available science in discussions to gain a better understanding of disease transmission, population dynamics, public land use and management boundaries. The group includes field managers, recreationalists, industry and tribal representatives, local government and other elected officials. It will meet quarterly in 2017. Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe the meetings.

“It is in all of our interests to manage for effective separation between bighorn and domestic sheep,” said DeWalt. “And it will take a diverse group to come up with solutions to this complex issue.”

CPW, land management agencies and permittees are currently managing for effective separation using a variety of tools, including altering allotment boundaries, employing animal husbandry and herding methods, using radio-telemetry to determine where and when range overlap occurs and removing animals from wild herds where contact has taken place.

“We need to develop all of these tools and use science to inform our decisions,” explained DeWalt. “That is the driving purpose behind this working group.”

The bighorn sheep is Colorado’s official animal and the state is home to the largest population of the species in the world. Once nearly extinct in the state, CPW successfully reintroduced the animal starting in the 1940s. For more information about bighorn sheep in Colorado visit the CPW website.

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