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Mountain lions thwart planned relocation of bighorn sheep


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    COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (KCNC) — State wildlife officials spent several days acclimating a herd of bighorn sheep to a capture net this month only to have an unexpected visit from a predator nix the planned trapping and transfer of the animals on Friday.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials set out alfalfa hay and apple mash, as they had daily for about a month, to bait the animals underneath the netting.

Unfortunately, mountain lions were in turn baited by the sheep.

“Wild animals are so unpredictable,” bemoaned CPW in a Twitter message Friday. “(The mountain lions) spooked the herd down into the Garden of the Gods. It’s made for great wildlife watching it but left dozens of staff frustrated on capture day.”

Now, because the pregnant ewes are so close to birthing, the capture and haul will have to wait until 2022.

“We have a small window,” said Bill Vogrin, spokesman for CPW’s Southeast Region. “So we had to call the operation off for this year.”

The relocation plan appeared solid on Feb. 18th. That day, CPW described the sheep as “feisty” in their approach to the bait area.

“It doesn’t take long for bighorn sheep to coming running down the sides of an old quarry,” CPW said via Twitter. “Typically the mash and hay brings 100 or more bighorn thundering down the hillsides. They jostled and sparred in the deep snow. The sharp crack of horns crashing together punctuated the brisk morning air.”

The intent behind the relocation is to rebuild a herd in Beaver Creek, south of Victor, Colorado, that has collapsed in number due to disease. The plan was to take 20 of the 120 members of the Rampart Range herd, ewes and young rams, by truck and lastly helicopter to their new home.

Vogrin told CBS4 that CPW had “a small army” of about 60 staffers on hand to carry out Friday’s relocation.

In 1944, Colorado wildlife officers were first in the U.S. to trap and relocate bighorn, according to CPW. Disease and pioneers pushed them to near extinction. Fourteen bighorn sheep were to be released on Pikes Peak in 1946 but the truck broke down in Green Mountain Falls. Officers released the sheep and they settled north of Garden of the Gods and became the Rampart Range herd.

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