Can A Pretty, Colorful & Harmless Balloon Kill Wildlife?

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Two rams, a class lll & class lV

The bighorn sheep survey is a joint endeavor cooperatively sponsored by the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, California Dept of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Forest Service Dept.  The census consists of  ground survey crews and helicopter observers.   Are the numbers dwindling?  It is thought that the population is growing after the massive fires we had a few years back.  Why?  Because it cleared the land and mountains of vegetation and the sheep thrive where they can easily see their predators.

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Bighorn sheep habitat.

Bighorn sheep inhabit open areas where the land is rocky, sparsely vegetated, and characterized by steep slopes and canyons. They prefer open ground to better detect predators (cougars!) and allow enough time to reach steep, rocky escape terrain. During winter, these sheep occupy high-elevation, windswept ridges and tend to prefer south-facing slopes where snow melts more readily or they will migrate to lower elevations (4,800 ft ) in sagebrush areas to avoid deep snow and to forage.

Bighorn sheep are gregarious, with group size and composition depending on gender and season.  Sheep ewes generally remain with the same band in which they were born.  Males older than 2 years of age remain apart from females and younger males for most of the year.  During the late fall and winter, the groups come together and concentrate in suitable winter habitat.  Breeding takes place in late fall, generally November and December.  Lambing occurs between late April and early July on safe, precipitous, rocky slopes. Ewes and lambs often occupy steep terrain that provides a diversity of exposures and slopes for escape cover. The lifespan for bighorn sheep males and females averages 8 to 12 years.

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Class lV Ram. Photo through spotting scope.

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A herd bedded-down on south-facing slope.

YOU CAN HELP SAVE A LIFE!  Yes, a harmless balloon DOES kill wildlife. Due to the vibrant colors of the once-released mylar balloons and colorful packaging waste, bighorn sheep are dying.  The vibrant color signals “high-nutrition” to the animal, so they eat it.  They later die from suffocation or toxicity.  Please do not release balloons, mylar balloons, and be respectful of our wonderful planet: leave no trace.  Pick up your leftovers and packaging & other waste, please.  The good habit of taking out whatever you bring in benefits ALL.

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Bighorn sheep habitat.


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