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Moving sheep through a growing valley

Scott N. Miller
Shane Macomber/Vail DailySheep were here in the Vail Valley long before skiers, but the latter is far more numerous these days.
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EAGLE COUNTY – Randy Campbell is a little surprised he’s still running sheep in the county. But it gets harder every year.”I thought the end was 10 years ago,” Campbell said by cell phone from a hilltop near Wolcott. “But I just take it as it comes.”Campbell, who used to work for Chris Jouflas’ sheep operation in the county, is now in business for himself. Over the years, it’s become harder and harder to put sheep on local pastures, especially those that flank popular running and biking trails.One of Campbell’s herds was pastured up Lake Creek Road recently, and one of the large dogs that protects the herd bit a local woman. The dog was put into quarantine for 10 days, then shipped to Campbell’s home place in Utah. Campbell didn’t receive a ticket for the incident.After the woman was bitten, the flock of sheep was moved to higher ground on the Scudder-Webster Ranch, where they’ll probably stay for some time.Lake Creek Road is a particularly popular place for runners. On one recent morning, a couple of runners had very different opinions about the presence of sheep, and especially the dogs that protect them, along a public road.

“The dogs do what they’re trained to do, but who wants to be looking over your shoulder all the time?” said one man, who didn’t give his name.”You’ve got to respect their boundaries,” runner Doreen Somers said of the dogs. “I love seeing the sheep, so I watch what I’m doing.”Aside from having sheep near roads, which they’re allowed to cross at will by state law, there can be other conflicts.Campbell has to move the sheep up Lake Creek to the property on the north side of Interstate 70 about once a summer. It’s only a few miles, but to save many hundreds of dollars on trucking costs, Campbell and his employees walk the sheep where they’re going.

Not too long ago, that trip would take a big part of a day. The sheep could go at a leisurely pace, with many stopping to munch roadside grass.”Now we start at five a.m. and we’re done by 7 a.m.,” Campbell said. “My dad would turn over in his grave if he knew I was doing this.”As it gets harder to work around people, Campbell often wonders how long he’ll be able to keep bringing sheep to pasture in Eagle County. What brings him back, though, is what the sheep eat here.”The grass here is the best I’ve seen in Colorado,” he said. “Look at the Boone and Crockett records for deer and elk and a lot of them come from around here. A lot of that’s genetics, but a lot of it’s the feed.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado


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