KAMLOOPS — In the grasslands above Kamloops Lake, the rams are trying everything and anything to woo the ewes. They're ready to mate and grow the herd.
"The rams follow the ewes around and you'll see them tilting their head back and they'll peel the top lip up, and that's to taste the air. They can actually smell the pheromones in the air, as to when a ewe is ready to be bred," says Frank Ritcey, provincial coordinator at Wildsafe BC.
This mating season, lasting from the third week in October until mid-November, is crucial. It's the only chance for these big-horned sheep to breed.
"Sheep, like a lot of wild animals, they breed once a year, and that's it, so this is a very critical time for them," says Ritcey.
This herd, introduced to the Kamloops area in the mid-1960s, has come a long way. It started with 12 sheep then, and now has grown to over 300. the herd is also important to the health of big-horned sheep in other regions.
"What's important about this herd is, quite often individuals from this herd will be translocated into other areas, not just in B.C. but also down into the U.S. as well," says Ritcey. "It's important to have viable herds like this that you can use to reintroduce into other areas."
This mating season is also a great time of the year for people to wander out to the Dewdrop at Kamloops Lake and take in the rutting season. But Ritcey says people need to be respectful of the sheep's mating territory.
"It's really important to understand your affect on the sheep," he says. "You don't want to be pushing them around. If you're trying to get close enough to the sheep to get a shot and the sheep takes off, then leave that sheep alone. All you're going to do is keep bothering it, and then it's not going to be able to concentrate on the business."
Ritcey advises people stay in their vehicles, where they can still get great shots. There's other equipment as well you can use to enhance the viewing experience.
"Have a good pair of binoculars if you're just out viewing the sheep. You don't have to get close to the sheep. You can just use your binoculars or spotting scope."
It's an exciting time to view natural beauty, but also a critical time for the big-horned sheep as they try to maintain a healthy herd in the region.
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