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Tracking Pikes Peak's legacy bighorn sheep herd

Bighorn sheep lambs
Posted at 9:08 AM, Aug 06, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — Some count sheep to fall asleep. Others wake up very early to count them.

On a very early August morning in Colorado Springs, a motivated group of people woke up to count bighorn sheep on Pikes Peak. "The sheep are going to be more active and moving in the morning time at dawn, so that's typically when we do these counts," said Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Area Wildlife Manager, Cody Wigner.

Close to 40 Parks and Wildlife officers and volunteers are working on a survey of all the bighorn sheep on Pikes Peak. They count and catalogue numbers, gender, and lambs. "This just helps us keep an eye on herd health, and herd composition, and the big one’s reproduction, to make sure that population’s gong to sustain itself," said Wigner.

There are around 80 big horn sheep herds across Colorado and only 18 of those herds are original to the territory where they roam. One of those important native herds is on Pikes Peak.

The bighorn survey is a huge task. Teams head out before sun-up. Because conditions on Pikes Peak can turn dangerous unexpectedly and quickly, they carry emergency gear in their backpacks. "I've got extra clothes, layers, water, first aid kit," said volunteer, Ken Anderson. Binoculars and spotting scopes are also tools they carry.

There are ten designated routes with miles of rugged terrain to cover. "We have people scattered all over all sides of the mountain, at all elevations to get as many eyes as possible to cover every inch of ground on the peak,” said Wigner They won’t walk every inch, but they do want a complete view of the mountain to spot and record as many bighorns as possible. “Over the course of time I’ve learned how to spot animals,” said Anderson, “I’ve learned where to look for them. There is a skill to spotting animals good at blending into their surroundings.

The jobs is a check, then double check task. After the first canvas early in August, the crew will be back later in the month to do it all again. They then compare numbers to check for consistency.