Home » NGPC News » Bighorn sheep captured in the Panhandle

Bighorn sheep captured in the Panhandle

Helicopter and sheep
The helicopter crew closes in on a pair of ewes in the Wildcat Hills. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)

CHADRON, Neb. — Bighorn sheep in the Panhandle are sporting some new hardware this week thanks to the work of a helicopter capture crew, wildlife professionals and volunteers.

South Dakota State University joined the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in capturing and processing a total of 48 sheep Monday and Tuesday — 22 in the Wildcat Hills near McGrew and 26 at three locations in the Pine Ridge near Chadron and Crawford.

Processing bighorn sheep
Workers process a bighorn sheep in single-digit temperatures. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)

Wildlife professionals have ramped up monitoring efforts in recent years to combat disease issues with Nebraska’s bighorn sheep, the most notable malady being Mycoplasma pneumonia. In addition to the sheep captured, processed and released, seven chronically ill ewes from the Pine Ridge were taken to South Dakota State University in Brookings for additional study.

The sheep that were released received new tracking collars and ear tags, in addition to undergoing a series of tissue samples and vaccinations. The ewes were not only fitted with new collars and tags, but also with vaginal implant transmitters. The latter devices, which have been used the past two years in the Pine Ridge, will help study lamb mortality.

The sheep were processed by a team of about 50 people, consisting of personnel from the Commission, South Dakota State University, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, the Lincoln Zoo, private veterinarians and the Alliance Animal Clinic. Chadron State College students also joined the effort in the Pine Ridge. Funding and support for the project has come through Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid grants, the Nebraska Big Game Society and local Wild Sheep Foundation chapters.

The helicopter crew has been contracted to stay in the Cornhusker State through the remainder of the week to capture mule deer for a study led by the University of Nebraska. Weather permitting, those captures will take place in the Frenchman deer management unit in southwestern Nebraska and the Pine Ridge unit of the northwest through the weekend. People may notice low-level helicopter activity and increased deer movement in those areas.

Releasing sheep
Workers release a bighorn sheep after processing it. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

Check Also

Game and Parks seeks additional conservation officers

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is seeking to add new conservation …