The North Dakota badlands has become homelands for 25 Alberta bighorn sheep.
The bighorns arrived at their new range after being captured near Hinton Feb. 12 by volunteers and staff from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development and North Dakota Game and Fish. The captors used large drop-nets suspended on poles and baited the sheep under them with alfalfa. The nets were dropped when enough of Alberta’s official mammals gathered underneath. The capture netted 2 rams and 23 ewes.
A team of biologists and veterinarians quickly tested the animals for disease and installed tracking collars and tags. The capture and processing methods minimize trauma and risk of injury for both the sheep and the humans. The sheep were loaded into special wildlife trailers for their journey south.
Alberta has a stable, healthy population of 6,500 bighorns living outside the national parks. This has allowed the province to provide 700 of the iconic animals to other jurisdictions over the years including British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, South Dakota, Washington, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Nebraska.That journey will end in the steep badlands along the Little Missouri River in the western part of the state. The Alberta immigrants will join an estimated 330 North Dakotan bighorns on the range. The collars and tags will help staff keep tabs on how the sheep adjust to their new home.
The transplants help ensure the long-term sustainability of bighorn sheep in North America by augmenting existing herds or re-introducing the animals to vacant ranges. Exports also reduce the potential for disease and subsequent die-offs among Alberta sheep.