Bighorn Day attracts hundreds to Garden’s Visitor Center

       In its second year, the Garden of the Gods Visitor Center's Bighorn Day showed a noticeable attendance increase Feb. 17.

ABOVE: A photo taken through one of the telescopes shows a couple of grazing bighorns.
BELOW: Bighorn Day enthusiasts look through binoculars and telescopes to find grazing sheep on the northern reaches of the Garden of the Gods Feb. 17.
Westside Pioneer photos

       “It went really well,” said center interpreter Bret Tennis. Activities at the five-hour free event included pelt and horn displays, presentations, guided hikes, a children's scavenger hunt, bighorn-viewing telescopes on Mesa Road and shuttles to take people to them.
       Although there was no way of determining how many center visitors came just for Bighorn Day, Tennis could point to overall attendance numbers at the center: 1,557 at the center during the day of last year's event compared with 2,726 this year. (The total last year had been about 50 greater than on the same day in 2005.)
       On the shuttle alone, the count was 367 people during the day. And attendance at each of the talks averaged more than 60 people, he said.
       One boost was from Mother Nature: The weather was kinder than last year's roughly 0 degree temperature. In addition, “we got the word out more,” Tennis said. He added that it didn't hurt that once again “the sheep were nice enough to show up for us.”
       He was referring to several members of the roughly 75-head Rampart herd that grazes sometimes around the Garden of the Gods.
       A third annual Bighorn Day in February next year is “definitely” planned, he said. It's a good time of year for bighorn sightings, he pointed out.
       The event started in 2006 as a commemoration of the accidental creation of the Rampart herd in 1946 when a group of bighorns were let out of a Department of Wildlife (DOW) truck that had broken down near Green Mountain Falls.

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