DEADWOOD, S.D. (AP) – A bighorn sheep herd that state wildlife officials released in February into the Grizzly Gulch burn area is thriving in the hills above Deadwood, and its members continue to give residents a show.
The herd frequently visits a rocky area on Deadwood Hill, leaving people amazed by their agility on steep rocks.
The sheep are “excellent rock climbers,” said John Kanta, regional wildlife manager for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department
They have wider and fatter hooves than other cloven-hooved animals, he said, and soft pads on the bottom of their hooves grip the rock.
“The cool thing is, these lambs are up and walking within hours, and within a week or so they are all over those rocks jumping around,” Kanta said. “You watch them sometimes and cringe.”
Accidents happen. Kanta said the department has documented lambs and adults falling off rocks, getting injured or killed.
Most of the 26 sheep that were released in February has remained in the area, but others have died.
A 3-year-old ram left and traveled near St. Onge, where it came in contact with domestic sheep, and then turned around and headed back to Deadwood. Department employees shot the ram before it came into contact with wild sheep, the Black Hills Pioneer (http://bit.ly/1HMgsrj ) reported.
Department policy calls for killing wild sheep that have contact with domestic sheep, which can pass on bacteria that causes pneumonia and decimates wild herds.
Two ewes were killed by vehicles, one died as the result of a capture and another died of unknown reasons.
At least 13 lambs joined the herd this spring.
“We have a bunch of lambs running around,” Kanta said. “Overall, their numbers are greater than when we brought them.”
Information from: Black Hills Pioneer, http://www.bhpioneer.com