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Posted: April 17, 2018

Bull River bighorn herd update April 30

A public update on the Bull River Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Herd Health and Movement Project is being held Monday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at the Bull River Inn.

The trajectory for the Bull River Bighorn Sheep population over the last eight years is rapidly declining to zero, the East Kootenay Wildlife Association notes.

In 2010 the herd numbered 160; by 2014 it was 120; 2017 – 74 and 48 this year.

A bighorn sheep grazes beside the Wardner Fort Steele Road. e-KNOW file photo

“The lowest this herd has been since 1986 is 80 sheep. Currently, there is no formal recovery plan for the Bull River herd. Their winter range is severely degraded by weeds and the native grasses that are left are subject to livestock grazing all summer/fall. Two highways run through their winter range, there is a mine planning to re-open and an industrial power generation station in the middle of their habitat. Their winter range is covered by an AMA but the area is popular all winter long with recreational hikers and their pets. There are three domestic sheep producers within walking distance of the herd. One ewe died of pneumonia this past winter,” the East Kootenay Wildlife Association (EKWA) noted in a Facebook event invitation.

The provincial Bighorn Harvest Policy (3.2.1) states: “Bighorn Sheep populations with less than 75 observed sheep should be not be hunted, unless required to meet management objectives.”

At 48 remaining animals the Bull River Sheep herd won’t be closed to hunting but instead it will be on LEH starting this fall, EKWA points out.

“But what are the management objectives? Come out to this event and ask some hard questions about what the real plan is to prevent this herd from going to zero.

EKWA has requested to government several times that a formal recovery plan be developed for the Bull River herd and for all other sheep herds in Region 4 that are in decline. There has been no commitment from government to invest big money for Bighorn Sheep recovery in Region 4,” the association notes, adding other herds are also losing numbers.

Seventy per cent of the sheep herds in Region 4 have less than 75 animals left in them; 85% of the herds are within 20% of the 75 animal threshold. Some herds have not been counted for 10 years and a few herds are now functionally extinct and hunting has been closed for those herds, EKWA reports.

The project update will be delivered by Jeremy Ayotte and Irene Teske.

The Bull River Inn is located at 4569 Wardner Fort Steele Road.

If you are interested in eating contact the Bull River Inn at 250-429-3717 beforehand.


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