Bighorn sheep show up again on their day

       Despite frosty temperatures, a total of 2,338 people went to the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center Feb. 14 during the fourth annual Bighorn Sheep Day.

A group dropped off by a Garden of the Gods Visitor Center shuttle bus (left) checks out the telescopes provided by the Division of Wildlife at the Mesa Road overlook in chilly weather during Bighorn Sheep Day Feb. 14. Several sheep were visible on the slopes near Glen Eyrie.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The attendance, although down from last year's record 3,197, was “not bad, considering the weather,” said Bret Tennis, lead interpreter for the center. “It was a really smooth day, and the sheep made an appearance.”
       The five-hour event, organized by the Visitor Center and the Division of Wildlife (DOW), highlighted the two bighorn herds in the area, including the Rampart herd that grazes in and near the Garden of the Gods.
       Visitors had the chance to listen to educational speakers, view grazing bighorns from the pullout on Mesa Road, look at wildlife pelts and skulls and go on guided nature hikes. On one interactive activity, DOW volunteers Jim Thomas and Dan Frankowski led participants to a hidden radio collar in the park. The collar was like those that are put on bighorns in the wild, with the DOW using telemetry to pinpoint their location.
       A few bighorn facts, from a presentation by Julie Stiver of DOW:
       The Rampart herd came into existence as a result of a truck carrying 14 bighorns breaking down in 1946 near Green Mountain Falls. The herd was to be dropped off to join the Pikes Peak herd, but when they were let go from the broken-down truck, they went the other way.
       The herd now numbers 70, and is kept at that amount to avoid disease outbreaks. Causes of death are disease (usually lungworm) and predators and, as needed, controlled hunting.
       Medicines are being tried to cure the lungworm that attacks the bighorns. DOW officers give it to them in hay and apple pulp.
       Rams weigh up to 300 pounds, the ewes up to 150.
       The average age of sheep is 8 years for the females and 5 for the males.
       Baby sheep can climb as well as their mothers when they are 1 day old.

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