Colorado's bighorn sheep a conservation success story

Posted at 8:25 AM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 11:07:18-04

DENVER - Colorado Parks and Wildlife shared a video of a herd of bighorn sheep walking through a neighborhood in Colorado Springs this weekend. They say this herd is the product of a conservation effort started back in the 1940s.

Colorado’s bighorn sheep herds can die out from pneumonia. Because of that, every so often, wildlife officers catch a herd under a big net, then safely relocates them to an affected area to help the bighorn population thrive.

“We get them on to their new habitat, and hope we can set them up for success,” said Jason Clay, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

In the late 1800s there were only a few hundred big horn sheep left in Colorado. But thanks to conservation efforts that are still in place today, the population is back to around 7,000.

Still, CPW says the herds needs to be constantly monitored.

“Pneumonia outbreaks in bighorn sheep herds can cause major die-offs, reducing populations by 50% or more. Even some individuals who survive the initial die-off may become chronic shedders of bacteria. They may survive for years and spread pneumonia to lambs, causing them to die by about 4 months of age. For some herds, not enough lambs are produced to replace the adults who die from other causes (predation, accidents). Despite years of research, we currently have no way of treating bighorn sheep for pneumonia,” CPW officials stated in 2018.

In February 2018, two dozen wild bighorn sheep were captured in Colorado Springs and relocated to the San Isabel National Forest near Salida.

CPW officials want to remind people to keep their distance from these majestic animals.

“You do not want to get yourself in close proximity with a ram and have it potentially attack you because you’re invading their personal space,” said Clay.