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Lander group works to supply water to bighorns in Ferris Mtns.

Sep 10, 2017 From staff reports

This summer, 42 people hiked up the steep slopes of the Ferris Mountains and installed four wildlife guzzlers to benefit the growing Ferris-Seminoe bighorn sheep herd. Guzzlers are systems designed to collect and store rain and snow runoff.

The four guzzlers were installed on ridgelines in the eastern burned third of the obsure Carbon County range, and are ready to collect water for sheep and other wildlife.

Their main purpose is to increase high elevation water availability for bighorn sheep near lambing areas to improve their chances of survival.

The Ferris-Seminoe herd currently consists of approximately 150 sheep, supported by four transplants totaling 77 sheep into the Seminoe Mountains between 2009 and 2015, and recently expanded into the Ferris Mountains by transplants of 24 sheep in 2016 and 22 more in 2017. The Wyoming Game and Fish management objective for the Ferris Bighorn Sheep Herd Unit is a post-season population of 300 sheep.

The 2011-2012 wildfires opened up more of the Ferris Mountains as bighorn sheep habitat, the Bureau of Land Management has been actively involved in projects to further enhance habitat for the newly transplanted animals. This year's installation of four guzzlers enhances bighorn sheep habitat by increasing high-elevation water sources and reducing the need for sheep to travel long distances to water.

Water For Wildlife Foundation also played a major role in the coordination and installation process.

"The Water for Wildlife Foundation is pleased with the successful outcome of the Ferris Mountain water project installation," executive director Erica Flom said.

Statewide Habitat Biologist Ryan Amundson said that water sources currently on the upper portions of the mountain are very limited, resulting in long travel distances to permanent water sources.

The daily treks can result in increased predation levels on wild ungulates, particularly fawns, calves, and lambs.

By installing water sources near preferred bighorn sheep lambing cover and escape terrain, the volunteers hope to increase the survivability of bighorn ewes, lambs, and rams, Amundson said.

The Ferris Mountains have received transplanted bighorn sheep from Devil's Canyon (located east of Lovell, WY) over the last two winters. They are doing well in their new homes, but can do even better with better water distribution and some planned prescribed fires.

Two of the four guzzlers were installed within the Ferris Mountain Wilderness Study Area, with precautions to preserve the wilderness qualities of this area. The 42 people accessed the remote sites by foot and installed the guzzlers in less than one day without any mechanized equipment - just handtools and lots of sweat. Guzzlers were camouflaged with natural materials found near the site including dead trees and rocks.

In addition to bighorn sheep, the guzzlers will also provide water for other wildlife species including elk, mule deer, neotropical migrant birds, and small mammals. Remote, motion-detecting cameras will be installed at the guzzler sites to provide documentation of the wildlife species benefitting from this cooperative effort.

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2017-09-24