Photo: Renee Strickland
If you drive through the town of Anaconda, you’ll find a giant highway sign warning of bighorn sheep on the roadway. Every year the sheep are seen licking salt off the roadway, and this sign is helpful reminder to slow down, because in 2010, eight were hit by a driver, including two trophy rams.
If you wondering where these bighorn sheep came from, Montana FWP gives the following details about the herd:
The Anaconda herd, also known as the
Lost Creek herd, is descended from a
transplant of 25 sheep to Olson Gulch,
in the West Valley of Anaconda, in
1967. Lorry Thomas was instrumental
in the original transplant, along with
the Anaconda Sportsmen’s Club.
Lorry witnessed extremes in the fortunes of the sheep that he and others
brought back. By 1989 the population
had grown to over 361 sheep before a
pneumonia outbreak reduced the herd
to a number closer to 144 head in
1991. Sheep numbers continued declining until 1999, and then rebounded
to a high of 314 in 2008 prior to a second pneumonia outbreak in 2010. The
highest sheep count since 2011 has
been 80 sheep in 2014.
The Anaconda Sportsmen’s Club and
Wild Sheep Foundation have partnered
with FWP and the Natural Resource
Damage Program to acquire thousands
of acres of bighorn habitat over the
years. These lands are managed by the
U. S. Forest Service, in some cases, and
FWP in the cases of the Wildlife Management Areas that were established.