Wind River Bighorn – Our Wyoming


(country rock guitar music) – Up in Sinks Canyon,
there are some petroglyphs up there that
depict bighorn sheep that have been dated at
around 6,000 years old. So, bighorn sheep have
had a major presence in the Wind Riverr Mountains at
least since the last Ice Age. Even when early settlers
moved into this area, they report that bighorn sheep
were impressively abundant in the mountains behind Lander. – If we look at the history
of sheep across the West, and including Southern Canada, we had about 1.5 to two
million sheep estimated. Then in the late
1800’s, early 1900’s, we had domestic sheep
come into the area. Because of disease transmission,
those numbers dropped to about 25,000 was all. That’s kind of what
happened across the West. – It wasn’t until
the early 1960’s that some residents
in town talked to the Game and Fish
Department about getting bighorn sheep back
into the area. So, they brought some
bighorn sheep down from Whiskey Mountain,
up in Dubois, and started to
repopulate Sinks Canyon and other areas along
the Wind River front here. That continued into the ’80’s. At that point in time,
a pretty thriving herd existed of bighorn sheep. Unfortunately, in 1992,
there was a gentleman that lived near Sinks Canyon. He and his wife brought
15 or so domestic sheep onto their property there. They only had them
for four months, but in that four month period,
there was some co-mingling between bighorn sheep
and domestic sheep. Some pneumonia causing
bacteria were passed to the bighorn sheep. Within a couple
years, bighorn sheep had just virtually
disappeared again. Of course, we all know that
Bam-Bam was the very last bighorn sheep that was
alive in Sinks Canyon. He’d butt people,
and he’d chase cars, and what not, and he
got himself in trouble. For safety reasons,
his and people, the Game and Fish
Department removed him to the Sybille Big
Game Research Station. He died, I think, in 2013. His body, now, is back
up in Sinks Canyon mounted in the Visitors’
Center at the State Park. We’re looking at information and some other alternatives
now that will hopefully enable us to find a good pathway
to restore the population along the entire
Wind River front. – We look at several
projects per year, and this was one of the projects that came in for funding. We’ve raised about $42,000
in the last couple years just for the Temple Peak herd, and to capture the sheep
that we have recently. Of course, the funds are
used for the radio collars, the capturing themselves. The most most expensive
part is the helicopter. (guitar music) – This is the second year of
deployment of collars here, and we’ve got some movement
data from last year that showed some of the
bighorn sheep from this area spending time up near
the Cirque of the Towers. Some of the others went
into higher country on the reservation in the
Bull Lake Creek drainage. Some stayed pretty much
right where they were when we caught
them last February. Certainly, we’re gonna
need to see where some of these bighorns that are
being collared today move to, try to figure out
suitability of migrations from places where we don’t even have bighorn sheep right
now, like in Sinks Canyon, or Little Popo Agie Canyon. If those bighorn sheep
were released there, do they have the
ability to even get to the high country
with habitat conditions between the alpine tundra and the low elevation
winter ranges. – A lot of those collars will
stay on for several years until they either drop
off or the battery dies. They either have the
information stored on board, or they can actually
upload that information to a satellite, which you can
then download within a day. A lot of the samples
that are collected, blood samples, a lot of
the biological samples, we’ll actually send them
out to the State Vet Lab in Laramie, and they’ll go
ahead and do tests for that, and run genetic tests,
and look for any diseases that they might find. – Right now, we cannot
do any transplants from any other herds
within the state of Wyoming or other states unless they’re
pretty well disease free. We’ll see exactly what
kind of diseases they have, and that will determine
whether we can transplant other sheep in there because we do not
want to be introducing any other diseases to
the existing sheep. – [Stan] It’ll take some time to get the results back from
all the pathology testing. – I mean, I think
it’s really important that states like Wyoming,
and a lot of the other states across the Inner
Mountain West, especially have cooperative
wildlife research units. I think it’s important
that not only is the state agency
using science and some of these
research techniques in their management objectives, but also gives graduate
students like me a chance to work
with game and fish. Again, we’re feeding right
back into that system, and those managers are using
some of the best technology, some of the best science
in the field today to make some of those
management decisions. – It could be
weeks, months, years before we move forward
to start making decisions on whether to
transplant bighorn sheep into the herd unit again.

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