In this episode, Terry Meyers, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, joins Dennis and Kevin to talk about the challenges bighorn sheep face in Colorado. We talk about disease and its spread, habitat, bighorn numbers, as well as what is being done to help this iconic animal increase its numbers across the west.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society Raffles
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society
High Country News Article
Want More Bighorn Sheep? - Terry Meyers - Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society
00:00:04 - 00:05:04
Hello and welcome back to another episode of the seek outside podcast. My name is Dennis and today Kevin and I are joined by Terry Myers Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society which is based here in Colorado we spend most of the time talking about bighorn sheep in Colorado in the challenges they face. The conversation got going very quickly. Selena hit the record button in just started talking so be patient with our first couple minutes. As we're hashing out a few details in launch right into the podcast without further ADO Terry Meyers Yeah. They're they're apples then Wednesday but we're gonna be doing other stuff throughout the summer so You know probably right after this ends. We'll be doing something else so We we don't have to get it out soon and I can just mentioned there. You know stuff available. I would like to get that out there possible. If you don't mind me mentioning that stuff. I would like to mention it. Yeah let's a think we could shoot to get it out in the next couple of days. thinking Kevin. We have one scheduled for Friday to publish that. I can just push next week that we could do that and then I can work to try to get this done by again. Amin earliest tomorrow sometime. We push it out to the world. Oh yeah that'd be great. I mean these. These raffles are the ones that we normally dried our our banquet which was cancelled so we lost all our banquet sales But you know we're doing okay but Yeah it'd be great to get a little more interest before we. We closed down next week looking. While I'd never thought about that impact on our this far as Govan stuff like your guys is rivals stuff a doug you guys on having your big event this year either right. We were supposed to pull these winners of these raffled that are banquet in March Do we had to cancel and we had to work with the state drawing postponed to give us more time to sell tickets otherwise we would have been way down what took were wisdom good call. We'll do a recording. We can we can jump right back into Maybe carriages give us One maybe Welcome to our guests and then just give us a little rundown of Who you are in why Why while cheaper important to you. Sure I'm the executive director of the Rocky Mount Baker in society The society has been existence since nineteen seventy five. We're an affiliate of the National Wild Sheep Foundation but we've actually been in existence longer than Nashua wild she foundation we're based here in Colorado. We do a large portion of our working Colorado but we have done Bighorn sheep conservation projects throughout the West We're we have about members We represent people from over forty states and As well as Canada and Mexico and you know I think that while cheaper kind of the iconic species of the West at least to me and you know they're the the state mammal for Colorado the Wildlife Agency. Where's the patch of big Horn on their shoulders And I think that for a lot of people big chief just kind of represent the mountain west the ruggedness that the the wilderness places that we all love love to visit and now want to protect and I think that it's an easy uh progression to what attack. Protect those species. That are I. Can't I kind of Those those habitats that we love and a bigger cheaper facing a lot of challenges throughout the West and they need our help They're not doing as well as many of our their big game species. That's interesting because that was kind of going to be one of my questions for you as I drive through my valley right and I can see fifty elk. I might even see a hundred and fifty. Petek couple back roads this time of year but maybe I see five sheep. Why why are they are not the same numbers of shape the well bighorn sheep and Colorado face many challenges and a lot of them were probably pretty familiar with you know. We know that there's a loss and fragmentation of habitat because You know every year we have more and more people we have more development more more impacts to those areas that are very important to bitcoin shape.
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There are some other issues like habitat. But we're really not short on habitat for big horn sheep in Colorado As far as quality habitat We do have those impacts from recreation and things like that There's maybe some some Predator issues but they're really not factor in in a lot of heard drop the state for because the one thing that is challenging are bighorn herds. All over the Western slow disease and diseases benefactor for these issues for as long as we have been here And that's the primary reason why we have not been able to recover bighorns the way we have recovered all the other species that were in great decline around the turn of the twentieth century. We we were seeing declines and all the big game species back in early nineteen hundreds and through the efforts of conservationists and hunters and and the groups that were formed to protect wildlife. We were able to bring all those populations back to really incredible numbers except with the exception to species and one being the Bison and the other being bighorn sheep and diseases is a challenge for bighorns continues to be a challenge because we have really left the vectors on the landscape that the vectors of that disease or domestic sheep and we have domestic sheep grazing all over Western Colorado. She might be aware and very often and bighorn. Sheep habitat and so our bighorn sheep. Continue to be exposed to the bacteria that causes the these Respiratory illnesses that really hinder our herds from growing where they could be can. Can you talk about the disease itself in or maybe there's multiples In the do they affect domestic sheep or that killing domestic cheaper. They are domestics. You've just carriers Recap AKON WHILE CHEAP. Well for the most part. Domestic sheep are seriously affected by these bacteria that they carried that do affect Bighorn SHEEP. They domestic sheep can get pneumonia. They can suffer from pneumonia You know they might see less weight gain and she. That are suffering from pneumonia. But it's not really a big issue for the domestic sheep producer but when these when these bacteria were brought over when domestic she brought over you know two hundred three hundred years ago. Wild sheep were naive to these bacteria and they had no defenses built up and they still really haven't Developed those defenses and so As as exposure continues to happen We still see these suppression of these wild hers. And the only the only real way to prevent that from happening now is keeping domestic sheep and wild sheep separate We can talk about some some ideas that people have on other ways that we might be able to accomplish. Some good things for bighorns but really separation is recognized. Does the only real solution at this point to keep disease from affecting wild sheep? So it's kind of like what's going on in our World Today. You have basically a a a symptomatic possible. Eysenck demanded areas bringing something to someone who has no immunity built up for something and social. Distancing is the best answer really i. I think it's a good analogy where you know The biologists and the scientists have some issues with comparing them because once virus ones bacteria. But really it's the same solution right. We we have to keep separation or social distancing bighorns and domestic need to be distance a lot further than than humans. Do to keep the disease from spreading But it really is a good analogy. I think and I'm hopeful that people have a better understanding of the bighorn sheep. Domestic Sheep Disease Issue After experiencing what we are going through right now tortoise and so in one maybe differences well as Reading an article published a couple years ago. any wild sheep dinner found anywhere close right where they mingle with domestic sheep. They're typically euthanized. Is that right? The policy of Colorado Parks and wildlife is to euthanize bighorn sheep. That are known to come into contact or close proximity domestic sheep and really.
00:10:00 - 00:15:13
That's a policy. That aren't BS supports because the risk of disease is so great and the outcome can be so devastating for wild sheep purchase. It's really the only solution we have right now. We can't treat We can't treat those sheets that come into contact because there's there's nothing that's been proven to be effective Some people have suggested that we capture them and take them to research facilities to to study them. It's not really feasible either because there are limited research facilities in the state where we can have where we can hold bighorn sheep. And it's it's not feasible transport those sheep to those facilities so the only solution. We have to utilize them. And it's fortunately we don't have to do that very often like unfortunately it's probably because we don't detect the events when they happen very often. It's not that they're not happening. But it's not very common for us to be in the right place right time to detect those those interactions and to be able to intervene. Sure to actually be maybe in the mountains when the cross paths right and a lot of times what will happen is somebody will see the interaction and you know. They can't report it right away. You know when you're up in the mountains you might not know who to contact or you might not have cell service you know it might be a couple of days before that occurrence is reported and then there's really no way to track down that big word They were they were exposed or potentially exposed and euthanize them so we have a lot. We have a lot of What we suspect we have a lot of unrecorded contacts and then we also have contacts. That are reported at a later date when we really can't do anything about it so the the times when we actually get tyler report making. Go Out and do something. It's not very often. So what about what about goats some domestic goats. 'cause I know pack goats are used a fair amount the backcountry do they present the same issue? That's that's a good question. There are a lot of people looking into that right now if you look in Colorado Parks and wildlife bighorn sheep and mountain. Go hunting brochure. They ask you to leave your pet goats at home and the reason is that pack goats are known to carry the same bacteria. The domestic sheep do that caused diseases in wild sheep There have not been very many documented cases of of transmission between domestic goats and wild sheep but there have been some recent genetic studies that have shown that the exposure that wild cheap have had to these These bacteria throughout the West have almost exclusively at introduced by strains that are carried by domestic sheep and domestic goods so there is genetic proof out there that there has been transmission in the past. We just don't win. That has happened and so There have been some testing studies done on domestic pack. Does that show that the prevalence of these bacteria is much lower In goats than it is in domestic sheep and so there has been some question about whether we really need to restrict the use of domestic goats in the back country but I think the wildlife professionals right now. Are Airing on the side of caution. You know there may be an opportunity in there in the future to To develop some kind of testing system and kind of a a certification system that you know pack goats are are Bacteria free or something like that. You know that's a that's a way down the road and there are some. There are some challenges to doing that. But it's probably worth looking into further but for now you know. Our advice is to leave the pack goats out of occupied bighorn. Sheep Habitat so how close to these animals actually have to get to each other. And how long is an issue? Obviously they don't need to get to where they're co mingling and a domestic sheep is wondering with the wild sheep her or or what I mean. What does it look like? What's the distance and time required for you know we don't fully understand that but I think that just ten years ago our understanding was that we really needed nose to nose contact and that has changed For really significant reason that At a research facility in South Dakota they had Bacteria free bighorn sheep in a pen and they had domestic sheep in another about three hundred feet away that had bacteria and somehow there was contamination across that distance.
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So we understand now that it's possible Have Transmission Be Aerosol. We don't know the distance. That's obviously an unnatural situation. Where you have them pen together in the same areas all the time you know It's not something you would encounter in the wild. My feeling is that you probably in the wild still need some sort of nose to nose contact but that the time for transmission is probably not very long time needed for transmission. You know is that bacteria President President in the mucus in you. Know in in the aerosol coming out of the nose there can be transmission fairly quickly. So what about if like a light? Some domestic sheep grazing similar. Say they've been grazing underneath. Whatever you know that's pretty common spot and the next day or two days later while cheap filter into that area. For whatever reason. Is there any possibility of transmission there? or is is absolutely there won't be any transmission. Well our understanding is that the bacteria does not live for very long outside and toast. So there's there's not really a good chance for there to be a transmission. There are feeling is that. That's that's not a viable source of transmission The bacteria simply does not live very long outside the host. So there's probably no concern with While she picking it up from from the dirt or from the grass where domestic sheep have been grazing or from the feces. Things like that when they're in the field you know like say to get close to each other. Are they just curious about domestic sheep like is he just really curious? About what the heck this other thing is run around in in. That's why they get maybe too close to the of Sniffy bighorn. Sheep are gregarious You know they liked to hang out in groups I think that I think my personal opinion is that it probably varies. According to the time of year I think that sometimes they sheep might not be attracted to domestic sheep. But you know we're we're not really seeing that for sure obviously in the fall during the Rut when the rams are on the move looking for us Going to be more attracted to those domestic sheep flocks but we've seen interaction can the summer between domestic use and wild us and so so that's not a given you know. Domestic sheep actually sound similar to wild she. If you've ever heard of wild sheep out in the wild make a call. It sounds a lot like an investing. Sheep you know they. Obviously there's obviously an attraction there And so that's why that's why we need such A. What's such a great separation because there is the ability for you? Know these wild sheep to smell or see or hear domestic sheep and actually go exploring thinking them out. So what are some of the strategies to help? Keep them separate at this moment. I mean you and I both know that it's easy to go a summer and find big flocks of domestic sheep around in several basins. And it's a lot Lot Easier I find the domestic than it is to find the wild sheep strategies. That's that's a difficult one because I said the separation is the key so there are list of best management practices that were developed by the Western Association of fish and wildlife agencies. Wild cheap working group. They they put together a list of best management practices. When you have both species on the landscape what you can do you know and these. These include Hurting practices for wild sheep. Where you where you bet them. How many guard dogs you have things like that problem is none of. This has actually been proven to be effective. It's it's it's kind of like intuitive what you think might help the situation And their document actually says they should not be relied upon to achieve effective separation so we focus on federal land management practices that would exclude domestic sheep from bighorn. Sheep range when possible.
00:20:01 - 00:25:06
And then it's it's a tough. It's a tough topic because domestic sheep producers in western Colorado really rely on those Public land Domestic sheep grazing allotments And so it's a difficult situation. You know one solution that we've been working on in the last couple of years we've been working closely with our partners at National Wildlife Federation. Nwf has a wildlife conflict resolution program and one of the issues they work on is domestic sheep bighorn sheep conflicts. And the way they do. That is through a volunteer voluntary allotment retirement. And so they reach out to producers who have a lot in high risk areas and they ask them if they are interested in essentially taking a an incentive to waive their permit back to the federal agency it's kind of like a buyout and One key component of these incentives to wave is buy in from the Federal Agency. So you have to have an agreement with the federal agency that if this permit t wave permit back then federal agency is not going to turn around and issue that permit to another domestic sheep raiser And so we we get very responses from Federal Agency. The office some of them are very willing to work with us Just like some are very willing to work with us and others you know Kinda WanNa keep doing what they're doing and this is all one hundred percent voluntary we make it known that the offers out there and In the last two years National Wildlife Federation has completed a lot retirements on on four allotments in western Colorado and took the tip of the iceberg. On what's available. I mean there's really a lot of opportunity out there If we can get some domestic sheep producers on board the other key component to that is raising funds for these allotment retirements It's all through all through private donations and donations from from conservation organizations. It's all the funds that were raising Through things like Raffles and our annual banquets and and our our private donors and it's so important to us and we are really probably limited right now by the funds available so We have we have just boundless opportunity out there to work with producers on retirements but we have to. We have to know that we can fund them. I we also have to know that the federal agencies are willing to Vacate goes allotments. If deal is reached but I see it as a real perhaps forward Which allows the producer to retool. Their operation perhaps moved to a lower risk allotment perhaps convert academy. There's a lot of different options available. that we can look at or just get out of the domestic. Go something else but It's it's probably better than the courtroom and paying attorneys to Hash this out to. That's a interesting point. So if they're a like if they want to retire there they WANNA change their allotment from sheep to say cattle That's a possibility for them or they would maybe get a different geographic area to maybe run cattle in like. How would that work it of? It's all situation specific and it also depends on what the federal agency is willing to do. A lot of these domestic sheep. Allotments are at higher elevation above timberline. And that's just too high for cattle. You can't raise Cadillac high elevation so unfortunately there are a lot of domestic sheep allotments in Western Colorado. That are not suitable for cattle grazing. More and if the federal agency is willing to go through a new process to convert those those allotments that that are suitable for cattle to cattle. That's that's a good solution It's obviously difficult for a domestic sheep producer to convert the cattle. Because they don't have the same they don't have the same in infrastructure needs for those two species they don't have the same feed you know Pasture needs and things like that. So it's it's not the Probably on there are not a lot of vacant allotments out their failed to move domestic sheep you know we have bighorn sheep throughout Western Colorado And so it's hard to find vacant lot number one and number two that have good separation from loud where we feel comfortable moving domestic sheep there. So that's a tougher solution to find but Probably they're probably opportunities nope we looked at a at the bigger picture and looked at cattle producers. You know if they were cattle producers willing to move around. I just think that I just think that if we open our minds to solutions we'd have a lot more opportunities available and it just takes sitting down at the table.
00:25:06 - 00:30:03
But in the meantime we really have to ensure that the decisions that the federal agencies are making protect wild she And we see. We've seen a large effort to really kind of rubber stamp approval of domestic sheep grazing allotments and kind of keep the status quo as is which is really. The status quo has been suppressing. Our she populations are while she populations for over one hundred years and I. It's not viable alternative in the future. Not Humid important back just a little bit you started talking about the fundraising and stuff and I don't know if we were recording yet. But you mentioned that this whole Cova thing has changed your fundraising this year. That has made it a lot more difficult because you weren't The same rendezvous or similar types of events that are fundraising events In also that you do a lot of habitat improvement now like in say elk stuff habitat. Improvement is maybe like creating you know some some positive various Or whatever what does that look like in the sheep world in Colorado in the in the sheep world largely involved Thinning thinning forest forest areas areas of heavy under story. You know oak brush areas areas. That have become really overgrown especially on winner range. Winter Range is really important and a lot of our win range due to fire suppression has become Really overgrown with Mountain shrubs as well as you know. Pinon juniper Our Fourth of kind of encroached all that habitat so when we do have at work in Colorado. It's largely Sending dinning projects because corn sheep like areas where they can see well they don't like being an enclosed forests or enclosed canopies where they can't see predators and so also also prescribed fire to Reset the stage that habitat bring it back to an day Jr where they're The shrubs or more nutritious the grass is more nutritious for the sheep and that's also very important but like I said before you know. We don't have a shortage of habitat in Colorado Other states do a whole lot of Especially in the South West Arizona Nevada to a whole lot of wildlife Water Projects Guzzlers. We don't have a wider problem in Colorado. Even our desert sheep herds are long You know major river corridors the the Dolores River and the gunnison river so they don't have a water issue so we don't really do a lot of water projects in Colorado primarily thinning projects burning projects And and you're right we This covert nineteen thing is really kind of setback our fundraising this this year. A little bit we. We usually have an annual rendezvous plan in the springtime which is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We have about five hundred. People attend that every year Have Big Live and silent auctions and raffles and and all kinds of things and it's our biggest fundraiser. Unfortunately about two weeks before the event this year in March and we had to cancel it We're still conducting several raffles including raffles for the statewide bighorn. Sheep tag a Statewide Mountain Goat. Tag and say program were tag. Those those raffles are coming to a conclusion on. May Six may. Thirteenth is the last date of purchase tickets. So it's coming up in about a week And then we'll draw winters on the sixteenth. That's a big fundraiser. Every year for those who aren't familiar with the program We get to retain twenty five percent of the proceeds. The gross proceeds from those Raffles can then we send seventy five percent to Colorado parks and wildlife and then there is a project advisory committee on which we we sit and we sit down once a year in May and we look at all the projects. The proposed projects that have been submitted. Drop the state To spend that money on and and we we have an all day meeting and we allocate all the funds that have been raised during the auctions and raffles to projects throughout the state. And so that entire seventy five percent that gets set to CBW is spent on projects to benefit the species are remaining twenty five percent that we retain is spent through our own grant program where people can apply foreign received funding for projects at one of the one of the big projects. that we've been funding lately.
00:30:03 - 00:35:23
Have been these a lot retirements because we think it's very important and it's a very great solution to the biggest problem that while cheap in Colorado have so if people are interested in participating. We run raffles throughout the year to to Add money to our grant program. Our website is bighorn. Sheep Dot Org. You can go to the website and follow the raffle link and Purchase tickets and We'll do a lot of good things with the money. That's probably my best. Just go on sheep this year. I was GONNA say What do you by chance have odds for people? Pardon did you have like what their odds are like. Aren't the The odds for winning the statewide tag all our better. Not very good 'cause everybody wants to she right. I don't know if you've looked at the number of sheep applications lately but You know in two thousand seventeen we had about eighteen thousand people applying for about three hundred bighorn sheep pigs in the state in two thousand eighteen. They changed the system where you did not have to front the money when you apply for sheep. License and applications jumped from about seventeen thousand eight hundred to about forty one thousand talk. I feel like that's going to be remembered right. Like yeah fifteen. Twenty years from it'd be like remember that year that in charge us for this. Yeah Yeah and so the next year you know. They changed the system again and they started. They started charging you for A preference by you know fifty or one hundred dollars and it dropped to twenty eight thousand so it dropped a little bit. But I've heard rumors that the numbers are back up to about thirty one thousand this year. So there's obviously far far more interest than there's opportunity available and and I've always told people you know every time every year when the draw results come up. I hear a lot of people complaining about the system. Because it's not a straight preference point system for sheep you know it's it's kind of it's still a luck of the draw thing right. You have a little bit. You have to statistically better chance of drawing if you have more points but you can draw on your fourth year of applying in our system and obviously people have been applying their whole life and they get frustrated when they see people with fewer points drawing and they want to change the system and I always say let's not change the system. Let's just make more sheep you know. Let's increase the opportunity And then all of our draw will get better and so. That's where I like to focus. You know let's let's make more sheep. We have ever oportunity too. Have a lot more sheep in Western. Colorado than we have currently if we can reduce the risks and and reduce the effects of disease on these herds that are continually on the up and down cycle Because of Repeated exposure to the the pathogen. So how much could be increased the size of the sheep part? Because I'm here buying a raffle ticket right now. That's a great question. And it's it's you know I. I've asked that of wildlife managers before if we didn't have diseases sheer how many sheep could we have and they think about it and this is what I've heard sometimes as I think about it and they say well maybe we probably couldn't have much more because of disease and I said No. No if we didn't have you know it's so hard. It's so hard to imagine a landscape where we don't have the disease issue. It's hard to really. Nobody wants to put a pencil and paper and say this is how many we can have because there are a lot of other factors but you know we have heard in western Colorado That in the early nineteen eighties. We issued thirty Ram licenses in one unit unit. Today has four Ram licenses up from one last year and it has about eighty or one hundred sheep. I think that's eighty sheep now. We used to issue thirty Ram licenses and one year we killed twenty nine rams on thirty Hunters Unit. And so clearly you know. There's another heard where we used to have over four hundred bighorns and and over the course of twenty some years. They use that that hurt as a Source heard for other transplant throughout the state and they pulled over three hundred and fifty sheep out of that her and put them in other places in Colorado over the course of about twenty eight years then. There was a disease that there was an interaction with domestic sheep. There was a disease event. The heard crash ultimately to thirty five sheep and it has remained at that population at thirty five for almost two decades now about two decades now so there are cases like this throughout Western Colorado where we have had far larger populations in the past and we know we can grow while sheep there if we can get rid of the vectors that are spreading the disease and then clear those diseases from herds and re-grow them.
00:35:24 - 00:40:04
So you know my opinion is we have. We have about seven thousand Rocky Mountain bighorns in Colorado Right. Now there's no reason we couldn't have ten thousand if we could reduce the disease risk and probably more you know. I like to point out that you know. We like to think about bighorn. Sheep being de the ungulate of the the most rugged habitat in the state. You know. That's where you find and you go to the high peaks the rocky canyons and and That's where you find bighorns and largely. I think that's because that's where bighorns persisted when they're under the most pressure over one hundred years ago you know that's the places they were able to survive. And so that's the places where we are are. Hers remained there extirpated through large portions of their range. But those places that were most inaccessible is where they remain. But if you go back and your e old accounts from when white people I came to Colorado. You'll learn that there were bighorn sheep everywhere. They weren't just They weren't restricted to these these rockiest highest peaks. Like they often are today. And so I think that when you realize where we used to make horns you realize that we could probably have a lot more bighorns on the landscape in the future. If we worked at other issue that we haven't brought up his Hobby flocks people who have five or ten or thirty five acres and they have five domestic sheep in our backyard. There's there's no restrictions on that there's no guidelines for how to keep those domestic sheep and so that's another that's another big source of concern When we're speaking about disease and big horn sheep because especially when these these bighorn sheep going walkabouts in the fall. When during the Rut they can easily encounter small flocks of of domestic sheep. Which really have no re regulations associated with them like the large Bands that we see on public land. Have so so. That's another issue entirely that we should probably spend a whole hour talking about in itself. Interesting like is yeah and I know you you kind of touched on those. But it's still kind of question you since we're in the time of covert in vaccines are like what everybody's raving about What is it just not advantageous to study? You kinda hinted that we don't have the facilities But I mean is it theoretically possible that we we could find treatment for the disease wild While conservation organizations have spent millions and millions of dollars looking at the possibility Baxter nations well for wild and domestic sheep. And it's there it's probably too complicated to get into on this podcast but just to say The the respiratory disease is is multifactorial. Different bacteria that causes problems There are different strains of bacteria you know you can have. You can have a wild sheep. Heard many of our wild shepherds obviously have already been exposed to the bacteria that that causes respiratory events and they have somewhat recovered and they are still carrying these bacteria and the problem is is that the bacteria can can mutate and there are hundreds and hundreds of different strains at the same bacteria and you can have an exposure to a new strain of the same bacteria and it can completely wipe out or heard that has been exposed and recovered from a different sprang strain in the past. So that's the problem with Coming up with the vaccine is that it's hard to develop a vaccine work on all these different strains and all these different bacteria you know in all these different areas throughout the West in so short answer is that of a vaccine for awhile. Cheap or domestic sheep is really not feasible in the near future so you mentioned back long long time ago when sellers for showed up. What do we think the Max population of sheep in Colorado was at one point was another was two hundred thousand like? Oh you know.
00:40:04 - 00:45:03
I don't know that I've ever seen an estimate for Colorado specifically you know that there's west wide estimate has been anywhere from like one to two million while cheap. I think there are about eighty or eighty two thousand now So it's really incredible when you think about the drastic decline West wide and I would say that the scale is probably similar in Colorado. You know So how sheep? We've probably had a couple of hundred thousand bighorns it in Colorado. At one time we really have no idea you know I. I was reading just the other day an account from eighteen fifty nine It was actually a diary of George Jackson who discovered gold at Idaho Springs which started the gold rush and Colorado in eighteen fifty nine and he reports seeing a thousand bighorn sheep on the hillside above his camp on January. First Eighteen fifty nine. Can you imagine a heard of a thousand bighorns back that? That's a one in one location in one valley in Colorado so Our minds can run wild thinking about what might have been but we don't really have a good idea. We don't have good records and so all they can do. Is speculate thousand. That's insane so say say someone wanted to go on a sheet punt like I've ran guys that have been various shows. One Guy I talked to was like that. His dream is to HUNT SHEEP EVERY YEAR. And that if he didn't draw tag he would go with a friend that drew a tag and if neither room drew tag they would hire outfitter in British Colombia. Or something right which which is not a cheap pundit off so if someone wants to say the center not every year but say they want to do it every three years what would be their best route. Their best route would probably to to be. Honest would probably be to start putting money into an account weekly and make them that some you put in weekly as big as you can because the prices keep going up you know I tell people if you if you WanNa make sure that you go once she put in your lifetime. You'd better start saving your money. Now and and plan on paying an outfitter somewhere like Alaska or the Yukon or British Columbia And just go do it because you might go your whole life without without Drawing Tag The you know I have a friend. Who's very lucky in the Raffles? And he says play as many rapids as you can't even if you put one ticket and he's like he's had by by as many as many as sheep apples as you can't now. He's extremely lucky. And since two thousand six he has won seven hunts point playing the Most of us cannot ever hope to be that lucky. So that's another. That's another option but you know raffle Ref la there often just as bad or worse than than drawing a tag in the state raw You know There are other ways you can. You know if you just WanNa go sheep and you're not interested in the trophy you can apply for EU licenses. Which are a lot easier to draw but but beyond that you know you can you can become a archery hunter archery licenses in Colorado or a little bit easier to draw rifle tags but I mean that's pretty much. Save your pennies and and start looking at booking a hunt. How much easier is the artery? Taggers like twenty thousand for three hundred tags or says twenty eight thousand people or like substantially better You know they're it depends on the unit but there are some units where the odds are surprisingly good primarily because the archery hunters are never successful You know when you look at the success rate. They're really bad. And when people are gambling there perhaps once in a lifetime chance she. They're not willing to gamble on that you know. Nobody is killed a sheep in the last six years. You know It's just because it's really tough Some areas that really tough to hunt especially with the bow and you might get the opportunity to hunt cheap. But there's a good chance you're not get the opportunity to kill us you so it all depends you know some of the really good unit For archery hunting sheep in Colorado are really the odds are just as bad as as rifle licenses so good unit or a budget.
00:45:04 - 00:50:06
I You. You live in very good shape unit They don't have archery licenses down there but it's a good unit for sheep for sure although some of the decline recently and There's probably been some disease exposure down there again Particular heard was closed hunting for over a decade because it was down to about forty five individuals and out finally after after a decade and half has started to rebound and and Got Up to where I think. Cdw was issuing like seven Ram licenses. But I think that dropped again this year because it's it's on the decline again. There's been low lamb. Recruitment which is indicative of low level disease in the heard You'll see you'll see lambs not surviving through the summer. You know they they. They're bored and they live six to eight weeks and then The protection from their the their mothers colostrum starts wearing off and they get infected and they die and so that's what you see happening in these. Herds Drought Western Colorado and throughout the West. Where there's been exposure in the past and they might not suffer an all age die off but the disease is present and you have really low lamb. Recruitment year after year. And that's happened down down in your neck of the woods. Bet You to help help Brinda she population upper here. You can Engage the federal agencies when they are renewing domestic sheep permits and express your desire to have more bighorn sheep and better protection for bickering sheet You can join the organizations that are doing that work as well because we don't miss an opportunity to engage in those processes You can let your elected officials know. State and federal elected officials know that they aren't cheap cheaper important to you and you wanNA see some solutions. Those are probably you can let you know. Colorado Parks and wildlife. No you can let the Wildlife Commission. No anybody WHO's making decisions based on. How many bighorn. Sheep and how many domestic sheep browsing the landscape limited? What what your priorities are important to you. Should I report like say if I SEE DOMESTIC SHAPES VICINITY? That is known for having wild sheep around. Should I go ahead and report that? Or is that just too ticky tacky that they're generally like abates bark. It's it's that's a really important point that you bring up you know especially if you see a small group of domestic sheep. That don't seem to have anybody around. Maybe don't seem to be associated with a big flock and you know turn bighorn sheep period. Definitely report those you know. That's probably one of the biggest problems with With domestic sheep grazing and wild sheep habitat is that it's nearly impossible to not end up with stray domestic sheep. Get away from the main flock. And so then you have issues of those strays not being under the control of the herder. Not being under control of the the quote unquote best management practices. And you can have contacts and not know it so One of my friends with backcountry hunters and Anglers Durango. Dan Parkinson started a bighorn sheep. Observation program down in his neck of the woods women each wilderness about three or four years ago. And I've I've worked with him. Rbs's worked with ha on that a little bit and we've really expanded it We've actually expanded to include all Colorado now and We are working with a group called Mountain Studies Institute in Durango and they are compiling all the data that is collected from the bighorn sheep observations program and I would encourage everybody to go to that website. who's in Colorado and is planning on recreating in Colorado and take a look at the information that there because there are maps posted a Where domestic allotments are located where corn sheep habitat is and places that are really important to report observations and there's information about how to report your observations We're using a cell phone APP called naturalist and you see something out there either domestic sheep or while cheap we encourage you to have your location services on your phone which a lot of us don't turn it on. Take a picture of the sheep and to the website. It literally takes two minutes. And then we have that that Observation documented and we can keep track especially when we might have strayed domestic sheep on the landscape. I monitor that website daily. So if you post something if you posted something yesterday I'll see it in the morning today and if it's something that's very concerning all report it to see W.
00:50:06 - 00:55:14
so go to the mountains studies institute website take a look at that bighorn sheep observation program. There's all kinds of information there Ways to report your sightings There's some More information about the issues and Yeah you'll be ready to go out there and start looking for bighorns end domestics in that websites. I just looked up. Real quick crickets Mountain Studies Dot. Org would be a website for people looking to track that down dabbling as well so interesting. I think Dan had an article in a magazine. A couple years ago is that right. Yes he did. Yep Okay he was also featured in a a cover story in high country news a couple of years ago. There's a really great story really great Introduction to the issue in south western Colorado between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep I believe that was around August or September. Third Two thousand eighteen. If you WANNA look that up it's it's a good read out for everybody. Listen I'll try to find that Lincoln. Throw it in our notes for everybody. Track that track that down Cool Terry is there anything besides sheep? We can talk about for a little bit. We can talk about the that Dennis. He's all working for us because he wanted to meet Randy Newberg and then kind of kind of you got to meet him at such briefly. And you're like dude you're cutting but his with Randy Randy and I are great friends. Randy those supportive of our organization. He was a guest speaker at our event a couple of years ago. I he's got. He has a standing invitation to come back whenever he wants. You know he's always asking me. How can I help our NBS? You promotes us on his website and really appreciated and so yeah Hanging out with aren't bs and maybe we can get him back here to Colorado sometime soon Because he's a great advocate to have on our side for sure awesome deal deal will convince him to come back. Will we'll have them stop at C. coinciding committing maybe Dennis podcast. He he gets he gets to western Colorado occasionally for hunting. He doesn't advertisement advance though. But I usually when coming. So we'll see we gotta we gotta secret agent on the inside now. Don't don't tell Randy Bernard now right Mountain Goats. We want to talk about mountain goats a little bit. We have a lot of mountain goats in Colorado In some areas. It's it's a concern that they might be out competing Bighorn sheep believe it or not and so there have been some efforts. In some places that the Maroon Bells in particular to really reduce those Mountain no populations because they've really exploded in that area and There was there was really it was there is really You can see sh- an inverse an inverse Reaction of the population. There's a there's a big Horn Mungo. Population exploded The big word she population really decline there and we don't know if there's causation there but CBW was wondering about that and so they they really increase licenses and so something that that we keep an eye on throughout Colorado. You know we. We don't want these. There's some question about whether mountain goats are native species or not Colorado I don't know if anybody's decided That issue conclusively I've seen some old reports that suggest that there were mountain goats here but at any rate we have them now. People like to hunt them. You know we don't want to get rid of mountain goats but I think it's really important to limit where they spread and to keep them from out competing native horn. She person. So that's another issue that we've kind of worked with sleepy on there are some areas in Colorado. Where cdw she's special management licenses to remove these These pioneering mountain goats. They're moving into areas where they don't want them So that's just another issue. That's on the radar. Keep him out and goats where they're at now try to keep their their populations in check a little bit and Maybe we can have both bighorns and mountain. Goats in mound goats aren't affected by any diseases like that they're just more hardier their their Disease the same disease that that Challenges bighorn sheep has been documented and mountain goats in Nevada.
00:55:14 - 01:00:01
They actually had a dial in Nevada For whatever reason I there don't seem to be a lot of cases in the scientific literature that happening it could be a matter of Mountain goats not being attracted to domestic sheep and so now having interactions that the wild cheap have so that that'd be my That's what I suspect there but it's hard to say why that's what happening. But they don't seem to be having the problems that are dig. Aren't you do goats? Don't actually migrate. Either they stave very hard or the high country all year right right so I mean they're there for the most part in the same areas they're they're wintering the same places they summer. They're not going to come down to the lower elevations where they might a better chance of encountering domestic sheep. They're not gonNA go on these long journeys through nine habitat in the fall like a like a reading Ram. Will you know you'll have ram show up in a place that you think is just you know crazy for bighorn sheep? Because he's just out looking for love. That's don't really do that so much of it. We all understand that. Not Looking for exactly. I'll I'll recount a little story here. That happened in Actually near Grand Junction. About four years ago there was a young. Ramsay Young Bighorn. Rams it was a big arm showed up in a domestic sheep and in Loma Colorado those view car familiar. That's just weren't Grand Junction near the Utah State. Line and it was actually butting heads with a domestic ram in it actually killed the ram before about the landowner killed the bighorn he had permission from. Cdw over the phone. Go ahead and kill it. Wish they would have done anyway. Because of the contact and that Ram had a radio collar on it from CBW which had malfunctioned about a year and a half earlier and so they haven't gotten a location of this this bighorn rams per year and a half the last location that caller gave them was about forty one or forty two straight line miles away from where he was killed So he he had been hanging out down Down near Delta on the Gunnison River and he ended up in Loma Colorado about about forty one miles away. 'cause I just give you an idea of the capabilities of these animals. He across the Colorado River. I was GONNA say at across a couple of rivers almost seven. Yeah so so They they can travel long distances. Detroit there were at least one river in an interstate. Yeah here's a little crazy but you know we have we have. We have examples of that kind of moving all throughout the West really It's it's some one of the challenges that we just face in bighorn sheep management when we have a lot of a lot of domestic sheep out there on the landscape in all just to chase a lady maybe most likely lady someone else for it well for them down. Now awesome it. Thanks for coming on. Very thirty people were can people find out more Our website or go check it out like I said we have raffles going for a few more days By some tickets maybe win a she pot but more importantly contribute to maybe improving some separation for bighorns in western Colorado and putting more sheep on the mountains so that you can draw tag in the future fantastic. Thanks Terry thanks for. Thanks for coming on and answering some questions I definitely learned a lot. appreciate that sometimes. Absolutely anytime anytime you'll have me. You've gotta let us know in Newburgh in town again. I don't him. I'll be nobody. Nobody's GonNa hear this anyway was right. Thanks Gary thanks. Gentlemen everyone real quick before you go just wanted to say. Thanks for listening if you've been enjoying what you're hearing.
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