Game and Parks Commission Wildlife Division crew, Scottsbluff Conservation Officer Scott Brandt, volunteers and other Commission staffers used a period of very cold temperatures this winter to draw roving bands of bighorn sheep into a baited drop net trap on Cedar Canyon Wildlife Management Area southwest of Gering and Scottsbluff. The capture operation gave biologists an opportunity to take biological samples and attach radio telemetry collars to help monitor the bighorn’s movements and herd health. The large drop net held near the top of metal poles by strong magnets can be dropped remotely when enough bighorn have moved to the bait. “We were hoping to catch seven but ended up after several escaped under the net with five–two adult ewes and three lambs,” said Todd Nordeen, district Wildlife Division Manager at the Commission’s district office in Alliance. Nordeen and his crew needed to replace several existing collars in the Cedar Canyon herd that exceeded their battery life and recovered collars from several older sheep that died in recent years. Only the adult ewes were radio collared and the three lambs were ear tagged. The radio transmissions are normally monitored daily throughout the year to track the bighorn’s movements.
The bighorn sheep captured under the net are blindfolded and hobbled before the biologists move each bighorn to the edge of the trap to continue the workups. The radio collar attached to the bighorn ewe by Nordeen and Hanson above is fitted onto the sheep’s neck and the excess strap cut away. Once an exterior magnet is removed just before the sheep is released the collar’s transmitter begins sending signals on a selected frequency that biologists can identify, track and locate.