Alberta bighorn sheep settle into their new U.S. home

Forty bighorn sheep from Alberta are settling into their new home in Nebraska.

Forty bighorn sheep from Alberta are settling into their new home in Nebraska.

Dozens of big game managers, conservation officers and volunteers rounded up the animals two weeks ago near Hinton in the Canadian Rockies.

Officials hope to establish herds in an area of Nebraska where tens of thousands of the sheep once lived before the area was settled by Europeans.

The Omaha World-Herald reports that workers in Alberta used the rare winter treat of alfalfa to attract the bighorns to a former open-pit mine.

Once the animals were gathered, a net suspended above them was dropped.

The surprised animals were separated, blindfold and hobbled to keep them from kicking, then outfitted with tracking devices.

Finally, they were loaded into trailers for the 2,000 kilometre-drive south of the border.

They were released Feb. 9 at the Sowbelly Ranch near Fort Robinson State Park.

“Welcome to a new world,” said Todd Nordeen, a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife biologist after the animals thundered out of trailers and dashed into the hills and canyons around Pants Butte.

Officials hope the 35 ewes and five rams will get established in area, offering suitable habitats for viewing and hunting.

Apart from the cost of Game and Parks staff, the estimated $70,000 to $80,000 cost of the relocation will be covered by Nebraska’s hunter-financed game and bighorn funds.

Officials in Alberta have allowed for about 650 bighorns to be moved to the United States and western Canada since 1922 to help restore herds.

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