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Wildlife corridor to protect bighorn sheep

 

Large bighorn sheep
Photo credit: Getty Images

Montana’s bighorn sheep herds have suffered over the past few years. Many herds have been hit hard with pneumonia, leading to major die-offs across the state, specifically the Tendoy and Anaconda herds. Last week, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust approved a $224,040 grant to the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Sheep Foundation (WSF) to create a new wildlife corridor along Highway 1.

The grant covers one-third the cost of the actual land, which YT Timber is selling for $672,120. The 224-acre parcel is adjacent to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Garrity Wildlife Management Area. The creation of the new corridor will not only help all of the wild animals, but specifically the Lost Creek bighorn sheep herd.

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According to Brian Solan, president of Montana’s WSF, the parcel may be small but it will definitely help the bighorn sheep who travel through the area.

"There's been a lot of development in that corridor and that prevents sheep moving from the Garrity management area to Blue-Eyed Nellie Gulch and Olson Mountain on the other side of the highway," says Solan. "This small piece (of land) attaches to that wildlife management unit so they can get through and that prevents development and fencing."

The herd near Anaconda has faced major die-offs in recent years. The most recent occurred in 2010, when close to 60 percent were lost.

WSF hopes that the Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) will cover the remaining $448,080 needed to purchase the land and is waiting on NRDP’s decision. If the WSF completes the purchase, the area will be open to the public.

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