On the road with 41 bighorns

New experiences this week have included holding down a bighorn sheep, scrambling to avoid being rammed by said sheep in a trailer and driving across Alberta, Canada, as reporter David Hendee and I follow a group of friendly and dedicated USDA veterinarians, wildlife biologists and others from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

An older male bighorn sheep watches the activity of several Nebraska Game and Parks Commission employees as they, along with Canadian counterparts, set up a net capture device on Monday, Feb. 6, 2012.

 

After about a year or preparation, a caravan from the commission drove north and west for nearly 24 hours to Hinton, Alberta, a town on the eastern foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Their mission was to net close to 40 bighorns, collect blood and tissue samples, and then transport them back to Nebraska to create a new herd west of Fort Robinson State Park.

 

Clockwise from bottom left, conservation officer Russ Mort of Nebraska City, District Wildlife Manager Todd Nordeen of Alliance, Fort Robinson State Park Superintendent Mike Morava and wildlife biologist Chris Becker of Scottsbluff during a capture of bighorn sheep on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012.

Canadian volunteers hobble, or tie, the legs of a bighorn as they and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff participate in a sheep capture.

 

This task might seem easy, but watch the video below to get an idea of how chaotic the net drop and ensuing capture was.

 

 

So why all of the fuss? The commission has been tasked with managing wildlife resources for the state of Nebraska, where bighorns are considered an at-risk species. This batch of sheep will create a fifth herd near Fort Robinson State Park in western Nebraska.

“We want to let people treat them with respect and be appreciative of the fact that they were once here. We’ve been given the opportunity to bring them back,” District Wildlife Manager Todd Nordeen said.

 

Two bighorn sheep approach an alfalfa feeding area that Nebraska Game and Parks employees and their Canadian counterparts set up to attract and trap the animals.

 

I know that I, for one, will certainly appreciate them when I get the opportunity to see them in my home state.

But for now, we continue on down the road on our way to the release site near Harrison. As we follow the four wildlife trailers containing 41 sheep, I’ll be Tweeting through Montana, Wyoming and into Nebraska at @OWHalyssa. Follow staff writer David Hendee’s Tweets @OWHDavidHendee. And see more images from the capture and journey in this photo showcase.

 

A caravan from Nebraska Game and Parks drives to the bighorn sheep capture site on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012.

Alyssa Schukar

About Alyssa Schukar

I have been a staff photojournalist at the Omaha World-Herald since September 2008. I'm from Lincoln and am a 2006 graduate of the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Previously, I worked as an assistant at Malone and Co., a commercial photography studio in Omaha. My favorite pictures are those that give insight on the life of an individual or family because I understand the world better through the experiences of the people I meet. It's always humbling to be allowed such intimate access. My most challenging assignments come in many forms. Funerals, especially those of soldiers, always are emotionally draining, but I try to approach people with respect and dignity. In my time at the paper, I have covered a wide variety of assignments, including the Nebraska and Iowa National Guard's deployments in Afghanistan, Husker football at home and away, portraits of wigs big and small, rodeo queen competitions and intimate views of everyday life and love. Follow me on twitter @OWHalyssa.
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Comments

  1. Katy Healey Katy Healey says:

    What great photos, Alyssa! I’m excited to see these guys in Nebraska.

  2. Paul Oliver says:

    Wow, I love the closeup picture of the male longhorn on the top of the page! The video really brought the experience to life. Nice work.

  3. Alyssa Schukar Alyssa says:

    Thanks, Paul and Katy, for the kind words. The trip was a fantastic experience, and the coal mine was definitely an easy place to make pictures!

  4. [...] had only one other experience photographing wildlife, so this assignment offered many challenges. Any nature photographer will tell you that patience is [...]