Be careful around bighorn sheep, wildlife officer warns
The herd of bighorn sheep that has been frequenting the north Glenwood Springs area in recent days may be fun to watch and take pictures of, but it’s best to keep your distance, a state wildlife official warns.
“One of the bigger concerns is that the sheep are still in their rut season, so the rams can be very aggressive,” said Dan Cacho, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“If people get too close, you might get one of the rams, or even the ewes, try to charge,” he said. “That’s always a concern with any large wildlife.”
Cacho said that, for the past five days or so, the sheep have been coming down along the Sixth Street corridor from their usual perch on the steep slopes of Iron Mountain and back toward Glenwood Canyon.
The herd has caused a few traffic backups as people try to stop and get pictures, but it’s best to just keep moving, he said.
“It’s really best to just give them their space,” he said.
Typically, the herd tends to stay farther east of the Hot Springs Pool this time of year. However, in recent years Cacho said he has noticed them moving into the old limestone quarry site above Traver Trail.
“Very rarely did we see them this far to the west, but there has been some development that could have pushed them out,” he said. “It’s hard to attribute one thing to animals moving.
“It could be a weed infestation, more human activity, or even just one person’s dog barking and chasing sheep, which automatically makes a particular area inhospitable to them, so they move,” Cacho said.
The dry fall and lack of forage in some of the usual areas where the sheep congregate could also be a factor.
In any case, it’s something wildlife officials want to keep an eye on, he said. In fact, many of the sheep in this particular herd already wear radio collars so Parks and Wildlife can track their movements.
The Glenwood Canyon herd is one of four major herds in the region, Cacho said. Others are near Avalanche Creek up the Crystal River, in the Fryingpan Valley and north of Dotsero.
“We haven’t noticed any big movements of sheep herds,” he said, adding that herds in this area seem to be healthy, but across the western U.S. herds are struggling.
“That’s why it’s best to avoid any sort of disturbance for the sheep, and just let them be,” he said.