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Entries in Thompson Falls sheep (2)


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.


FWP worried about sheep deaths near Thompson Falls

Another sheep dies after being hit by a car east of T Falls- FWP photo(THOMPSON FALLS)- Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say they're alarmed about the decline in bighorn sheep herds in the Lower Clark Fork Valley, saying herd numbers have dropped from nearly 300 animals 4-years ago to barely more than 50.

State officials count the sheep every spring, and while the count doesn't include every single sheep in the herds near Thompson Falls, it's the total drop that has them concerned. And the on-going problem of collisions between sheep and cars on Highway 200 seems to be a major factor.

FWP says in the past four years more than 100 ewes and rams were killed after being struck by vehicles. Biologists say 5-sheep were killed in a single collision this spring. 

The state's concern is that deaths of breeding females poses a serious risk to the viability of the herd in the Lower Clark Fork.