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Monday
Dec312012

State hopes additive can solve sheep problem near Thompson Falls

Mag chloride has brought sheep right onto highway for past several winters- KPAX TV photo(THOMPSON FALLS)- Highway and wildlife managers are hoping a new additive, and possibly a speed limit change will be enough to stop the number of accidents involving bighorn sheep in the Lower Clark Fork Valley.

Montana Department of Transportation and Fish, Wildlife and Parks are hoping to find out this winter if a new product used to de-ice the roads can help from attracting the sheep to the highway. 

Repeatedly over the years, and again this past summer, people have collided with the sheep when they come down on the highway from the cliffs above the river. MDT has erected warning signs, and the adjacent railroad tracks are fenced off. But the sheep are drawn to the pavement like moths to a flame, especially in the winter, when highway crews apply magnesium chloride to the pavement as a deicer. 

This winter, MDT is trying something different, using a product called "Game Away" as an additive to a more traditional salt/sand solution in hopes that it won't attract the sheep to the salty taste of mag chloride. It's effectiveness will be studied all winter in three test periods.

In addition, Sanders County leaders have agreed to look at a speed study to see if that might also help reduce the number of serious collisions between sheep and cars. 

In the meantime, FWP biologist Bruce Sterling says the best thing for people to do is slow down and drive defensively, especially on the blind corners and curves. He says even if the additive works, there's still potential for the sheep to be down along the highway, especially where the cliff face is close to the road.

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