Too many rams in Glenwood Canyon
Post Independent Staff
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The hum of tractor trailers, SUVs and passengers speeding down Interstate 70 echoed across the west end of Glenwood Canyon.
About 100 yards above the bustling highway, on private property on the banks of Iron Mountain, stood a herd of about 15 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
They were waiting for Sonia Marzec, a district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
“They are pretty used to this spot,” said Marzec, throwing a mix of hay and apple pulp onto the ground for the sheep last week
Marzec has been trudging up the steep incline above the
Yampah Springs Vapor Caves almost every day since the beginning of January to feed the Glenwood Canyon bighorn sheep herd, which stands at about 25 to 30 sheep. Along with feeding, she traps the animals and places radio collars around their necks that will track their movements. She also takes blood samples to test for disease.
Marzec’s work is part of a four-year study of the herd’s movements and the deaths of its young lambs. Marzec said at the beginning of the winter there were six live lambs in the area, but that two of them haven’t been seen recently.
Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Division of Wildlife said the agency is doing five studies of Colorado’s big horn sheep.
“Bighorn sheep is one of the state’s most popular watchable wildlife animals,” Hampton said. “It is the state mammal in Colorado. Bighorn sheep just have a tremendous historical and cultural significance.”
The number of bighorn sheep has been declining in recent years and there are now about 7,000 in Colorado, Hampton said.
The Glenwood Canyon herd population has remained stable at around 25 to 30 sheep for the last three years, Marzec said.
Another part of Marzec’s study is to find out why the herd has the same number of male and female sheep. A healthy heard has about four females to every male, she said. Last year, a ewe was hit by a car after she was pushed into the road by a ram, Marzec said.
Right now the herd is off limits to hunters, Marzec said.
The Glenwood Canyon herd may become open for hunting if its population increases to 50 to 100 sheep, Marzec said.
The state also is studying the Avalanche Creek herd, which roams south of Carbondale near Redstone, Marzec said.
“It is a great experience to watch the wildlife so close at hand,” Marzec said. “It brightens my day.”