Speeding cars taking toll on sheep

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT – Colorado Division of Wildlife officer Kelly Wood likes to pose a trick question to people: What creates a greater management problem with the bighorn sheep herd in the Fryingpan Valley, hunters or vehicles?The answer is vehicles. A bighorn lamb was hit by a vehicle and had to be killed by a Basalt police officer at the direction of Wood in late February. The answer is vehicles. A vehicle hit a bighorn lamb, necessitating euthanasia by a Basalt police officer, at Wood’s direction, in late February. “This will be No. 7 since 2000 that I can document that had been hit on the road,” Wood said.Those seven were fatalities. There were probably other collisions that didn’t result in the death of a sheep or resulted in a death that couldn’t be confirmed, Wood said. Most of the fatalities were adults.Over that same period, hunters “harvested” nine bighorn sheep in the Basalt unit, Wood said. Only a few highly sought bighorn sheep licenses are issued each year. The number is determined by management goals for the size of the herd.In-state lottery winners pay $250 for the license. Nonresidents pay $1,700.All deaths aren’t equal in the eyes of wildlife officers. The wildlife division can regulate the sex and age of bighorns targeted by hunters. The hunt can be used, for example, to reduce the number of breeding rams. Vehicles, on the other hand, kill indiscriminately.”We can regulate the hunters,” Wood said, “but we can’t regulate cars flying down the road.”The posted speed limit is 35 mph. Wood and some residents of the area feel that many drivers ignore it and that speeding plays a role in the roadkill. A previous article about the problem in The Aspen Times caught the eye of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Society. It paid for an additional sign urging drivers to slow down. The new sign says, “Give Bighorn Sheep a Brake.” Last year, the Eagle County Road and Bridge Department set it up about one mile up the Fryingpan from Basalt.”It still didn’t make a difference,” Wood said.She is making another appeal for drivers on the road to slow down.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is