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Entries in Highway 200 sheep (2)


Speed limits lowered in area of sheep collisions

KPAX TV photo(THOMPSON FALLS)- Drivers navigating the winding, and sheep-filled, stretch of Highway 200 in Sanders County are being asked to slow down, with the state imposing new, slower limits for safety.

State and local authorities have been wrestling with the best ways to deal with the problem of Bighorn Sheep coming down onto the highway east of Thompson Falls for the past several years. In particular, the 13-mile stretch along the cliffs has been the problem, with the sheep coming down into the road, especially in the winter, drawn to the deicer applied to the roads. 

The Montana Department of Transportation has now lowered the speed limit to 55 miles-per-hour from the Thompson River Bridge east to Buffalo Bill Creek. That includes both sections of cliffs where the sheep have been most likely to come down on the road. 

Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel says his deputies and Montana Highway Patrol troopers have been giving "a lot of warnings" to drivers exceeding the new 55-mile limit in an effort to be "understanding" while people adjust to the change. He's hoping more drivers will become aware of the change, and the need to improve safety to prevent the collisions with sheep by slowing down. 


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.