Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Colorado Bighorn Sheep, Elk, Mule Deer Benefit from RMEF Habitat Project

There’s a definite danger in not seeing where you’re going, especially if you’re a bighorn sheep. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just made the going a little easier for bighorns thanks to a habitat project in Colorado. 

Here’s the deal. Bighorn sheep are primarily animals of open and semi-open habitats like alpine meadows, open grassland, rock outcrops and cliffs. The bottom line is they must be able to see in order to survive. Dense forests provide poor visibility making it difficult for sheep to detect predators. 

That’s where the RMEF teamed with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to continue their collaborative work of prescribed burns and mechanical treatment to thin dense sapling and pole-sized lodgepole pine trees in west-central Colorado. The area, located in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, is a known sheep migration route on the way to lambing grounds and summer range. The treatments retain aspen and large diameter conifers but clear the smaller trees to create better visibility and habitat near the forest’s edge by improving forage for bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer. 

It’s called the Taylor Canyon Prescribed Burn project. RMEF brought $10,000 in funding to the table in conjunction with $22,000 in matching funds, $10,000 from money raised in big game raffle funds and $12,000 from the US Forest Service. The work covered 160 acres. In the spring of 2012, two smokejumpers from Idaho worked with fire personnel on the ground by using chainsaws to conduct thinning. In November 2012, seasonal employees used chainsaws to carry out more thinning work, specifically by cutting, lopping and scattering juniper trees that created very dense conditions. 

Before Treatment (on left), and After Treatment

The project is part of a larger scale management project within a 20,000 acre planning area between Spring Creek and Taylor River, a popular area for hiking and camping. The goal is to continue the project into the foreseeable future. And that’s a good thing for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer and other birds and critters on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains.  


  1. Was there, or will there be, any prescribed burning done in conjunction with the "Taylor Canyon Prescribed Burn" project?

  2. The original plan was to do a limited amount of burning but fire restrictions last year made that unwise so crews went in with chainsaws instead. From here on out, we'll have to again evaluate the wildfire danger before determining whether to put any flames on the ground.

  3. Thanks. We have had some difficulty getting fires approved in other parts of the state, so I was just curious.