A $10,000 grant from the Glacier National Park Fund will enable biologists to learn more about the bighorn sheep that inhabit Glacier National Park along the park's boundary with the Blackfeet Reservation.
According to the Glacier Fund, research has identified one subpopulation of bighorns that utilizes the Chief Mountain/Otatso Creek area. This population is also hunted by special permit from the Blackfeet Tribe, the organization notes. As a result, "it is critical that park management have ecological data on this group to determine range, habitat utilization and population size, particularly in light of interest in the Blackfeet Nation to utilize this information to set hunting quotas and the park’s interest in not excluding bighorn sheep from a suitable habitat."
While some bighorns were collared in the park earlier this year, park personnel don't think that the collaring covered this particular part of the park, and so biologists will make another attempt to collar individuals in the Chief Mountain/Otatso area.
In the winter of 2010, preparation work scheduled to be accomplished includes data analysis, collar refurbishing and/or purchase, helicopter contracting, obtaining permits and co-planning with the Blackfeet, according to the Glacier Fund. With the additional data acquired from existing active collars that should drop off in the spring, and with additional data from the Blackfeet Tribe, final planning can take place with capture and fitting to occur in February of 2011, the non-profit group said in a release. These collars will be programmed to fall off in spring of 2012.
This information will help park personnel manage visitor access, habitat improvement/weed control, and assist to manage bighorn sheep in this area in cooperation with Blackfeet Fish and Game. Maintaining a viable bighorn sheep population in the Chief Mountain area would also benefit park visitors.
“The balance between people and wildlife is critical to the long term health of the Crown of the Continent ecosystem," said Jane Ratzlaff, executive director of the Glacier Fund. "We are delighted to continue supporting efforts that ensure management decisions are based on solid science. Thanks so much to our great donors for their support of this grant”
The Glacier National Park Fund is the official non-profit fund-raising partner for Glacier National Park. Their mission is to preserve and protect the beauty and natural heritage of Glacier for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.