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Protecting the Bighorns in the Tetons
Bighorn sheep are such an iconic species out West and tens of thousands of hunters want to hunt them each year, yet few get to due to the bighorn’s limited range and population densities.
With the ever encroaching and expanding human population out West, especially after the craziness of the 2020 events in the country, further wildlife-human conflicts occur, even in places where you wouldn’t expect them.
Most high mountain wildlife species migrate down-country to lower elevations and milder weather when winter hits the higher elevations. A subpopulation of bighorn sheep in the Teton Range in western Wyoming is one of the exceptions to that rule.
“The sheep eke out a living in the winter on nubs of dried grass and flowers near backcountry ski routes cherished by locals” according to Wyofile.com. “The Teton Range herd shuffles slightly up to the sides of peaks in the winter where wind scours away the snow, exposing nubs of vegetation.”
“Every time the wary sheep see something — or someone — approach, they retreat, burning precious calories and abandoning valuable winter range, researchers say.”
“Other places in the world are watching what is happening here. I might be optimistic, but the things I’m seeing lead me to believe it’s working,” said Josh Metten, a member of the Teton Backcountry Alliance Steering Committee and professional naturalist. “We’re involving people from the ground up and learning from each other and working together instead of being divisive… If we can’t do it in a national park, can we do it anywhere? We have to get it right here.”
I find it commendable that the groups are working together to find a solution to yet another dynamic challenge in the balance of sustainable wildlife populations and human recreation/expansion in the Rocky Mountain West. (This isn’t a unique situation out West. Colorado has long been fighting to find the balance between recreationists and elk in their summer range where elk numbers are dropping.)
What do you think? Should the ski opportunities be kept open or should they be closed down to protect the bighorns?
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