by John Kanta
Bighorn sheep were translocated from the outside Hinton, Alberta, Canada to Deadwood, South Dakota in February 2015 have made it through their first summer as well as their first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The bighorns have established well in their new home and aside from a few pioneering individuals, haven’t moved far from the original release location. It’s a fairly common sight for the residents of Deadwood, SD to see bighorns on surrounding hillsides as they drive through town. Since the last update, there have been three mortality events of adult sheep. Two ewes were hit by vehicles and an adult ram was euthanized. This ram traveled north out of the Black Hills, across Interstate 90 and was spotted very near a large herd of domestic sheep. The decision was made by the Department to euthanize the ram and maintain the health of the rest of the bighorn herd. Samples were collected from the ram and submitted to a lab for disease testing. The results came back negative. The graduate student, Ty Werdel, continues to monitor the herd and spent the summer collecting additional vegetation data for his Master’s Thesis. This, along with the data from the GPS collars the adult sheep are wearing will help determine what food sources the bighorn sheep prefer in the area. Ty also spent a good portion of his summer counting sheep and obtaining a total lamb count from the spring lambing efforts. The total count to date is 17 lambs making the total population of the Deadwood herd 36 bighorn sheep. The Hell Canyon bighorn herd that was translocated from the Rocky Boy Reservation, MT in January of 2014 is doing well. Recent survey efforts have placed the herd count at a minimum of 40 individuals with 20 ewes, 12 lambs and 8 rams. All of these lambs were a result of breeding efforts last year in Hell Canyon following the translocation. The herd is doing very well and lamb to ewe ratios look excellent. The original herd consisted of 20 individuals so the fact that the herd at least doubled during their first year is very encouraging.