HINTON, Alberta — Forty bighorn sheep are settling into their new home in Nebraska, about two weeks after they were captured in the Canadian Rockies and moved 1,300 miles to the United States.
Dozens of big game managers, conservation officers and volunteers joined in Alberta to round up the animals, with hope of establishing 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 used the rare winter treat of alfalfa to attract the bighorns to a former open-pit mine near Hinton, Alberta.
Once the animals were gathered, a net suspended above them was dropped over the bighorns.
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 1,300 mile drive to northwest Nebraska.
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 western Nebraska, 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.