Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Project

Have you ever seen Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in the Kicking Horse Canyon? Have you ever wondered about them? You are not alone! It is not at all rare to see these sheep on or near the TransCanada Highway #1. Their presence is a safety hazard: cars slow down to look or try to avoid hitting an animal; drivers stop, honk at, and occasionally hit the sheep.

Growth in the number or health of a group of living things is potentially limited by limiting factors including: predation, highway mortality, poaching, inbreeding, poor diet, high stress levels, insufficient area, insufficient mineral licks, etc.

Nevertheless, the sheep persist.  The story of the Golden herd of bighorn sheep is an interesting look at survival of wildlife which coexist with a major freeway, live in close proximity to a town, and occupy a relatively small and extremely rugged area.

 

 

Phase 4 of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s TransCanada highway widening project is happening and the associated disturbance and alterations to sheep habitat could further jeopardize the herd.

 

In hopes of helping the sheep survive, Wildsight Golden began the Golden Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Project in January of 2019.  

 

 

Introduction to Golden Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Project

The key recommendations of the study follow:

Alter fencing to allow access to critical winter and spring ranges without entering highway corridor.
Alter one-way gates and jump-outs to impede two-way use: Watch EwesGoingAgainstGate2
Improve winter and spring range quality by cultivating highly digestible and high-protein shrubs, forbs and grasses and removing invasive weeds and garbage
Document sources of required minerals within the study area and ensure access to mineral licks without entering highway corridor.
Create level to slightly sloping travel routes for sheep and other wildlife to use to move east to west through the canyon.
Ensure lambing area immediately west of Yoho bridge experiences limited to no disturbance from May 10 to July 30, annually Watch 
Install speeding cameras and lighted signage in the canyon near areas of high use by bighorn sheep.
Place movable signage on Hwy 93/95 used during traffic diversion periods based on wildlife locations data.

The study was presented at the 22nd symposium of the Northern Wild sheep and Goat Council and will soon be in press.  The presentation is below:

“Limiting Factors on a small herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, residing in the Kicking Horse Canyon, near Golden, British Columbia.”

Bighorn sheep often use the same areas all of their lives and usually have one lamb at a time.

Golden Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Project Report Aug 2020

 

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep prefer open areas with access to escape terrain. The Kicking Horse Canyon offers good escape terrain, cut up by fencing, but not many open, grassy areas.

To bring attention to the sheep and related concerns, Wildsight Golden recently organized the “Vanishing Bighorns” art show.  This show brings pieces created by 14 artists, each of who created a portrait of one member of the Golden bighorn herd as it was in 2019.  We have created a permanent exhibition which can be seen here with more details below.

The show is in Invermere at the moment: Vanishing Bighorns Exhibit Comes to Invermere

Art created for this show will also illustrate an upcoming book: “Vanishing Bighorns: through their eyes.”

Wildsight Golden is looking for volunteers to help with this project! You can help us know where animals are and where they cross the roads by learning to recognize different ungulates (animals with hooves) and sharing locations on your smart phone.

Learn more about Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in B.C or watch some sheep videos here

Support the Radium sheep herd  Act now: Save Radium’s Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Behaviours and indicators you might see:

Bighorn sheep are gregarious and like to be in a group, usually divided by gender with young males remaining with females for several years.
Fecal material (poop) can be used to learn about the health of bighorn sheep.  The indicators we have been able to assess are inbreeding/genetic diversity, parasites, pregnancy, stress hormone and  intake of protein, fiber plus digestibility levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bighorn sheep can see clearly up to 1 km away but they can’t smell well.

Please read about our Vanishing Bighorn Art Exhibit here.

And at the Art Gallery of Golden here.

 

 

We would like to thank our supporters and funding partners:

 

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Join The Team

Want to protect wildlife, clean water and wild spaces? Volunteer with us! Wildsight volunteers are a very special group of people who give generously of their time to stuff envelopes, attend rallies, help run events, put up posters, keep tabs on forestry practices in their communities and participate in citizen science initiatives.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Branch Information

Contact

golden@wildsight.ca
Box #25
#203 - 421 9th Avenue N
Patlar Building, Golden BC V0A 1H0
1-250-439-8491

golden@wildsight.ca