Hunters may have additional opportunities to hunt bighorn sheep in northwest Colorado thanks to an ongoing reintroduction effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society.
In January, CPW wildlife managers trapped 13 bighorn sheep from Basalt and successfully relocated them to their new home in Gore Canyon near Kremmling. The 5 lambs, 1 ram and 7 ewes were captured using a dropnet and were safely released in Gore Canyon later the same day. The sheep were ear-tagged and fitted with either telemetry collars or ear transmitters to monitor seasonal movement and habitat use.
The relocation effort is part of a broader management plan, which was established back in 2004, to reintroduce bighorns to Gore Canyon. Although Gore Canyon’s steep and rugged walls provide ideal bighorn habitat, sheep had been extirpated from the area since the late 1960s, presumably as a result of domestic livestock interaction, market hunting, poaching and habitat loss. CPW’s reintroduction plan estimates that the area could support a minimum of 150 sheep.
CPW first introduced bighorns to Gore Canyon in 2009, when biologists transplanted 14 sheep from Basalt. Monitoring efforts of this initial reintroduction showed that the sheep have adapted well, and that reproduction and recruitment rates (lambs surviving to adulthood) have been high every year. As of 2013, the area now supports approximately 30 bighorns.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff will continue to monitor the success and growth of the Gore Canyon herd with hopes that the population will support hunting in upcoming years.
This article and photos were submitted by Matt Yamashita. Yamashita is a District Wildlife Manager for CPW’s Northwest Region.