MIKE COMBS, Havre Outdoors
The Bear's Paw Mountains are now home to a number of bighorn sheep recently transplanted onto the Rocky Boy”s Indian Reservation. “A total of 25 sheep, including four young rams and the rest ewes and their young, were captured near Dixon on Jan 16," said Chippewa Cree Tribal Fish and Game Biologist Tim Vosburgh. “Twelve of the sheep have been collared with a monitoring device. These collars will last for up to four years and have a mortality alarm built inside the collar in case the sheep dies. "This project was made possible wi th help from the Confederated Salish-Kootenai tribes," Vosburgh added. "Many thanks go out to their natural resources department.” A helicopter and a capture net fired by a large shotgun device was used to individually capture the sheep, part of the Perma herd. They were then transported to a collection site and given a thorough examination. Afterward, the sheep were place into padded horse trailers for a ride to their new home. There were no injuries reported during the operation to either man or sheep, Vosburgh said. Financing of the project was provided by a tribal wildlife grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A habitat evaluation was completed using a GIS (global information system) program, Vosburgh said. This program enabled the the Fish and Wildlife staff to find suitable winter and summer ranges. “A final management plan is in the process of being developed,” said Robert Belcourt, director of Natural Resources. “We are working with private, state and federal entities in the placement of this band of sheep.” Leland Topsky, a supervisor with Fish and Game, said there will be no hunting allowed for years. "We want to eventually open a limited hunting season," he said. "For now the sheep can be seen along with the many other wildlife viewing opportunities that are available on the Chippewa Cree reservation."