Launch of a Facebook group to help the sheep herd

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By Steve Hubrecht
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A resident of Radium Hot Springs concerned about the number of bighorn sheep killed by vehicles during the fall rut has created a Facebook group to help track the incidents.

Environmental communication professional (and former Pioneer editor), Nicole Trigg, has lived in Radium for two and a half years and has developed a deep appreciation for the village’s bighorn sheep herd, frequently observing them on her walks around town, and even occasionally monitoring their social behavior just outside. the window of his house.

“When working in conservation, I tend to be hyper aware of wildlife issues. And ever since I moved to Radium, I have fallen in love with the bighorn sheep, ”said Trigg the Pioneer. “It’s hard to miss them, they are such a part of the village. You see them all the time, and if you observe them closely, you start to get to know them. You can identify individuals not only by their appearance, but also by their behavior. They are truly iconic: they are so majestic and so ancient, yet so creepy and sweet at the same time. I definitely have a soft spot for them.

Earlier this year, when Trigg ran into a dead bighorn sheep in the middle of the highway surrounded by a pool of blood just 50 yards south of the village, she was devastated. She called the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line to report the scene and received a follow-up call from Kent Kebe, a local wildlife enthusiast who works with the provincial Department of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources. (FLNRO) to help count and track Radium Bighorn Sheep. She learned from Kebe that traffic-related bighorn sheep deaths at Radium were on the rise and appeared to be from vehicles traveling well above posted speed limits, depending on the type of sheep injuries and the large amount of vehicle parts at the impact sites. .

But it was in response to a recent conversation with Kebe about the latest round of bighorn sheep deaths from high speed vehicles, that Trigg launched the Help the Bighorn Herd Facebook page last week, which launched on Sunday 5th. December.

“The idea is to have a public record. Putting up updates when sheep are affected, allowing others to put up their own updates, and educating the public about the effects of higher speeds on sheep, ”Trigg said, adding that to combat mortality bighorn sheep is even more pressing now, due to the much higher traffic volumes that pass through Radium each spring and fall as part of upgrades to Kicking Horse Canyon on the Trans-Canada Highway.

This project closes the national highway between Lake Louise and Golden and instead sends all cross-country traffic on Route 93 South to Radium, then back north on Route 95 to Golden. This detour crosses several parts of the village where the sheep like to hang out, and occurs at times (early spring and late fall) when road mortality is already particularly bad for the bighorn sheep Radium. The closure (and traffic detours) are expected to continue until at least the end of 2024.

“We saw speeding tickets,” Kebe said the pioneer, adding that there have been three confirmed cases of bighorn sheep affected and killed by vehicles in Radium since the rut began in late November, and two other high impact collisions in which traffic struck bighorn sheep in ‘America, and the injured sheep managed to leave the area, “but we haven’t been able to find the sheep since, see how injured it is or whether it died somewhere.

Two of the three confirmed deaths almost certainly involved speeding, Kebe explained, noting that they occurred in areas with a speed limit of 60 kilometers per hour and that the damage and injuries to the sheep are a strong indication that the vehicles traveled well in excess of 60 kilometers per hour. time.

“A sheep was killed instantly, and there were vehicle parts strewn all over the place,” Kebe said, adding that in one of the impact crashes in which the death is not confirmed, ”the sheep said hovered over the vehicle, landed in the other lane (of the freeway), then climbed up and off the road and disappeared into the dark.

Kebe pointed out that the bighorn sheep road death toll was higher than normal this spring, when TransCanada first closed, but was no higher than normal when TransCanada closed last fall. , although he was quick to point out that this was due more to the warmer fall temperatures than anything else. other.

“We had warmer conditions than usual for most of November. The sheep therefore stayed on the golf course much later than they usually do, instead of moving to northern Radium. It has certainly helped reduce the number of road fatalities, ”Kebe said. “We dodged a bullet over there.”

Kebe has been counting sheep for three decades and notes that Radium’s herd once numbered 240 sheep, but in recent years the population has fallen to around 140. A recent bighorn count found 120 sheep, but Kebe said it was was probably because the bighorn sheep are much more dispersed throughout the village (and therefore more difficult to count) during the fall rut, and often in the past the number of sheep during the fall rut was lower than at other times of the year. Kebe also urged dog owners to keep their pets on a leash around the Bighorn Sheep Radium (see the article in the Dec. 2 issue of the pioneer) because the village continues to have problems with dogs harassing sheep.

Just before the press deadline, on the night of Monday, December 13, the fourth mouflon – a sheep – died after being struck by traffic. The incident took place on the outskirts of the village at the foot of Radium Hill (in a 60 km / h zone), and the vehicle beat the sheep so badly that it had to be euthanized later. Wildlife officials suspect speeding is a factor.

At the time of publication, the Help the Bighorn Herd page had been live for a week and already had 44 subscribers. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/helpradiumbighorns.


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