The public will have an opportunity to view the animals known to be the best rock climbers in western Nebraska’s butte country during morning hikes at two state parks in July.
Group hikes to view the region’s wild bighorn sheep are scheduled for two consecutive Saturdays – July 12 at the Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area south of Gering and Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford on July 19. Hikers will meet at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center for the first week’s excursion, while the second will leave from the park’s Activities Center. Each hike begins at 9 a.m.
The hikes will be led by Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff, including Amanda Filipi, outdoor education specialist, and conservation technicians Laura Woodrum and Brandon Tritsch.
Participants may be required to hike as many as three miles of rough terrain to see the animals, so hiking shoes, sunscreen, a hat and drinking water are highly recommended. The hikes are free, but vehicles must have a park entry permit. They can be purchased online at outdoornebraska.org or at each park’s respective headquarters.
Bighorn sheep are native to the butte country of the Nebraska Panhandle, but disappeared from the landscape in the early 1900s because of disease, habitat loss and unregulated hunting.
A herd was reintroduced to Fort Robinson in 1981, where it was released after several years of captivity. Releases of animals from other states and Canada in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2012 have resulted in a sheep population of about 400 that resides in areas of the Pine Ridge between Harrison and Chadron, and the Wildcat Hills south of Gering and east to McGrew.