OUT: OUTside Connection November 12, 2008

Bighorn sheep watchers look forward to November and December

A bighorn sheep walks a steep cliff with ease. Photo Courtesy of TRINA ROMERO/Colorado Division of Wildlife

Bighorn sheep watchers look forward to November and December when the crash of butting heads can be heard as rams fight for dominance during the breeding period.

The Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep is Colorado’s state animal, numbering approximately 7,200 around the state. Desert bighorn sheep, which breed in August, were re-introduced into Colorado National Monument in 1979. There now are an estimated 300 desert bighorn sheep in Colorado.

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep herds have grown, thanks to an aggressive transplant program by the Division of Wildlife in cooperation with other states and federal land-management agencies.

What: Viewing Rocky Mountain and desert bighorn sheep

Where: Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep: Island Acres State Park, spotting scope, information sign;
Cameo, north of the power plant to Coal and Main canyons, an added bonus is seeing wild horses; Taylor River Canyon north of Gunnison; Fryingpan River Canyon. Desert bighorn sheep: Colorado National Monument - along Rimrock Drive and Lower Monument Trail; Dominguez Canyon; East Creek (Colorado Highway 141) on Nine-Mile Hill.

When: Best viewing of battling rams is November through December, although sheep often are visible at other times.

How: Spotting scopes, binoculars allow you to pick out their distinctive white rumps, the easiest way to find the well-camouflaged sheep.

Populations: Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, est. 7,200; desert bighorn sheep, 300.

Information: Colorado National Monument visitor center, 858-3617; Trina Romero, watchable wildlife coordinator, Division of Wildlife, 255-6191.


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