WATCH: Colorado Park Officials Blindfold, Airlift 21 Bighorn Sheep to Beaver Creek Canyon

by Alex Falls
David Renwald / Getty

An effort that took two years to organize paid off when Colorado Parks and Wildlife successfully relocated 21 bighorn sheep. The herd was moved from the Garden of the Gods Park to Beaver Creek Canyon near Victor, Colorado.

The sheep were moved because the once thriving herd in Fremont County became ravaged by disease. Relocating these sheep has helped slow the spread of those diseases. The operation required several delicate steps to succeed. Including luring the herd, capturing them safely, and blindfolding them.

“The CPW team worked to blindfold and restrict the legs of the bighorns as they carefully untangled them from the net, all the while being careful to avoid pointed horns and sharp hooves. The bighorns were then sedated and assessed for overall health and signs of disease by CPW veterinarians,” the release said

The tranquilized sheep were then loaded into orange pouches, connected to the helicopter using a sling line, and flown Beaver Creek Canyon in a ride that only took 10 minutes to complete. The sheep were then released into their new home.

“The Rampart bighorn sheep originally were destined for release on Pikes Peak. But the truck carrying them from Tarryall in 1946 broke down in Green Mountain Falls. So the drivers simply released the 14 sheep on board, hoping they would head up the mountain. Instead, they found their way north and east to the Rampart Range,” the release said. 

Bighorn Sheep Herd Nearly Faced Extinction

The Rampart Herd is currently made up of over one hundred sheep. It has played a vital role in re-establishing the state’s bighorn sheep population after the faced extinction due to overhunting.

“Bighorn sheep transplants from Tarryall in the 1940s were the foundation of us recovering the species,” said Ty Woodward, CPW terrestrial biologist for the Pikes Peak region, in a news release.

“We wouldn’t have the herds we have today across Colorado without the work of those conservation pioneers re-establishing those sheep in their historic ranges. We are proud to be carrying on that tradition for today’s Colorado residents and for future generations.”