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Colorado Expands Sheep Range in Gore Canyon
February 10, 2009.
From the Colorado Division of Wildlife:
Thanks to the support of Colorado sportsmen, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have made a comeback in Gore Canyon, west of Kremmling. In mid-January wildlife managers with the Colorado Division of Wildlife released 14 bighorns into the rugged canyon country that overlooks the headwaters of the Colorado River.
Bighorn sheep were seen in Gore Canyon as early as 1839 and were prominent through the early 1900s. Wildlife managers believe that several factors, including market hunting and disease, likely played a role in the final decline of bighorn sheep from Gore Canyon. Longtime local residents recall seeing bighorn sheep on the steep canyon walls in the distant past.
"This is a project that a lot of people have been working on for almost 15 years," said Mike Crosby, District Wildlife Manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "It's exciting that we finally have sheep on the ground and we hope to have a population in this area for many years to come."
Wildlife managers have equipped the sheep with radio tracking devices and will monitor the herd's movement and health over the next few years. Additional transplants will likely be used to supplement the Gore Canyon bighorn population in the future.
The bighorn sheep released in Gore Canyon were trapped on the Basalt State Wildlife Area and transported to the release site in livestock trailers. Two males (rams), one lamb and one adult, were transported in the group as female sheep (ewes) are key to more readily establishing the herd. It is unknown how many of the female sheep might be pregnant but transplanting sheep after the late fall breeding season increases the possibility of moving pregnant sheep. Bighorn sheep lambs are typically born in May and June.
The Division of Wildlife is finalizing a statewide bighorn sheep management plan. The document compiles historical and biological information about bighorn sheep in the state and guides management of the species through 2019. The statewide plan should be available later this month on the Division of Wildlife website.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are the official state animal and appear on the seal of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The Division of Wildlife's bighorn sheep projects in Colorado are supported by sportsmen's dollars through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Additional funding for projects comes from the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society through that organization's annual auction and raffle of bighorn sheep licenses.