Bighorn Herds Expanding

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Bighorn sheep herds in the Pine Ridge and Wildcat Hills in the Nebraska Panhandle have added to their numbers with the birth of lambs this spring and early summer, according to Gary Schlichtemeier, district wildlife manager at the Game and Parks Commission's district office in Alliance.

"The bighorns released at Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area southwest of Scottsbluff continue to do well," Schlichtemeier said. "The sheep remain on the WMA and we now have 11 lambs from the 12 ewes that were released. The last lamb was from a two-year old and the remaining ewe without a lamb is also a two year old." According to Schlichtemeier, Colorado game biologists believe about 50 percent of the two year old ewes in their herds have lambs.

"The bighorns at Fort Robinson State Park are also on the increase," he added.

"Melissa Hill, a student at University of Nebraska Omaha is currently conducting a study of bighorns at Fort Robinson, and she estimates the population at about 90 sheep, with at least 20 lambs from the 36 breeding age ewes. The first lamb was born on May 3 and the last observation of a new lamb was June 25."

"The key for the Fort Robinson and the Wildcat Hills herds is how many of the lambs will survive to reach one year of age, and the on-going bighorn study will provide valuable information on lamb survival," he added.

The bighorn study has also shown some expansion of the range used by the Fort Robinson herd.

"Our bighorn sheep habitat is significantly different from traditional bighorn habitat in Colorado and Wyoming, and the study of the Fort Robinson and Wildcat Hills herds will provide a better understanding of bighorn habitat in Nebraska."