It’s Canada Day and an opportunity to share with the rest of the world some of the wonderful things that are Canadian and better yet, Albertan!
Our bighorn sheep, while not exclusively Canadian, are a symbol of our strength and longevity. They are our province’s official mammal and an appropriate symbol for our rugged landscape, robust population and rich, natural history.
Early this year, 25 of these bighorn sheep from reclaimed coal mines in the Cadomin area were captured and took a trip to their new home in South Dakota. The effort will help conserve the sheep population in South Dakota.
This is the fourth consecutive year Alberta has supplied bighorn sheep to outside jurisdictions. In 2012, sheep were relocated to Nebraska, in 2013 they traveled to Nevada and last year the sheep were moved to North Dakota. To date, more than 100 sheep have been relocated.
The area where the sheep have been captured has a high sheep population. There is no hunting currently allowed on these reclaimed mine sites and the population of sheep may be approaching carrying capacity. Removing these sheep for relocation will help keep the habitat, especially winter range in better condition for the sheep. The captured and relocated sheep have no impact to existing hunting opportunities for Albertans.
The vast majority of sheep which are captured are ewes (females) and at the time of capture are pregnant from the previous breeding season. There have been high lambing rates with the relocated sheep which provides another boost to the new populations.
Sheep captured in Alberta are all ear tagged and have radio collars placed on them at time of capture. The receiving jurisdictions monitor the sheep to determine survival and reproductive success
Helping other jurisdictions with wildlife management projects works both ways. Alberta is also recognized for being a source of robust, healthy sheep with strong genetics that do well when relocated. In the past Alberta has received wildlife from other jurisdictions to assist with our conservation programs.
For example, recently Alberta has received sage grouse from Montana to help the recovery of sage grouse populations in southern Alberta. A collaborative effort in species recovery is something that we can be proud of.
Hope all ewes have a wonderful Canada Day, Alberta!