The Saratoga Sun -

Tag, ewe are it!

Wyoming Game and Fish gets help from Encampment students, faculty in bighorn ewe tag and capture operation

 

March 14, 2018

Photo Courtesy of Jordan Seitz

One of the five collared bighorn sheep ewes begins its escape after being released.

"It is hard to describe the feeling of watching the chopper thundering in with sheep dangling below and setting them a stone's-throw distance from us, blasting us with rotor-wash before taking off for another capture."

Jordan Seitz, who teaches sixth grade at Encampment K12 Schools and eighth grade earth science, was able to take his students on a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" on Feb. 28. Seitz, his students and some additional staff members from Encampment aided the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) in their capture of five bighorn sheep ewes.

The WGFD had intended to capture six ewes, but experienced mechanical problems after capturing the fifth sheep.

"They got to do things including hold the sheep down, take temperature to monitor stress level, cool the sheep down, take fecal matter samples, conduct ultrasounds, hold tools and anything else that was helpful," said Seitz.

Seitz had met Will Schultz, the Saratoga Wildlife Biologist for WGFD, at the Saratoga Lake Field Day last spring. Schultz conducted an activity where the students would use Global Positioning System (GPS) units to find hidden objects in the sagebrush and relate the activity to a mule deer study he had performed in the Valley.

"Fast forward to this fall and he sent me an email asking if I was interested in my classes being a part of their ... bighorn sheep study," said Seitz, "Of course I said yes!"

"Over the course of the next 2 years," said Schultz, "WGFD intends to involve the students in monitoring the radio-collared ewes.- getting them out in the field to assist with habitat monitoring and lamb surveys, and teaching them about bighorn sheep ecology in the classroom"

To preface the students' involvement in the capture, Schultz and Katie Cheesbrough, WGFD terrestrial habitat biologist, visited Seitz' sixth grade class and eighth grade earth science class. Schultz and Cheesbrough presented the students with the big picture of their study which included how the sheep would be captured, tracking the sheep, monitoring them for diseases and sheep habitat requirements.

During the sheep capture, students were treated to mini-lectures from biologists, veterinarians and one of the muggers - the person who subdues the animal - from the helicopter crew.

Photo Courtesy of Will Schultz

Top right, from left, Hayden Crowe, Eddie Buford, Jordan Seitz, Caysen Barkhurst and Harrison Jackson pose with one of the captures ewes.

"The whole capture and data collection crew was great; and really encouraged my kids to be a part," said Seitz.

Going forward, Schultz and Cheesbrough will share what they've learned from the tests run on the sheep with Seitz's classes.

"We'll be viewing the GPS data and start to make connections as to where these sheep are spending their time throughout the year," Seitz said.

Seitz added that he's not sure where the data will lead his students and WGFD, but that the direction will depend on what the data tells them when the different tests are complete. He believes that it could be used to map out home ranges for sheep by looking at GPS data or developing habitat improvement programs.

"I'm academically connecting this to various state standards in multiple subject areas," said Seitz, "but quite frankly, it is just an awesome opportunity for my students to study something so close to home."

 

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