Bighorn Sheep Survey of Known Winter Ranges in the Canmore area of the Southern Rockies Area 2008
Jon T. Jorgenson and Michael Jokinen
A bighorn sheep survey was conducted on January 20, 21, 23, and 24, 2008 on 14 of 22 known winter ranges within Wildlife Management Units (WMU’s) 404, 406, 408, 410, and 648 (Peter Lougheed Provincial Park). Weather conditions were excellent with fresh snow, clear skies and calm winds. A total of 15 hours of helicopter time including deadheading time was used. Elk surveys were conducted at the same time because many sheep wintering areas are found near elk wintering habitats. A total of 824 sheep were observed, consisting of 430 ewes, 147 lambs, 43-1/4 curl rams, 53-1/2 curl rams, 94-3/4 curl rams, 37-4/5+ curl rams, and 20 unclassified sheep. Total sheep numbers appear comparable to previous surveys when similar areas were able to be covered and considering that winter ranges north of the Bow River were not surveyed in 2008, the 2008 count was at the high end. Lamb: ewe ratios were at the low end of the range (31%) relative to the long-term average but they were not alarmingly low. Considerable variation was found when counts were compared within WMU’s over time. Both WMU 404 and 406 are up slightly in total numbers while WMU 408 is lower than earlier surveys. Downward trends in total count were evident for the Three Sisters-Wind Ridge and Sheep river winter ranges. Sheep numbers in WMU 410 were the highest observed, however, caution is advised in interpretation due to the possibility of duplicate counts during the ground surveys conducted along Highway 1A.