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Town Council to Review Recommendations to Improve Bighorn Sheep Habitat on Feb. 5

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An overview of a study containing recommendations to improve the bighorn sheep habitat in Vail will be presented to the Vail Town Council at its Tuesday, Feb. 5 meeting. The topic is listed as 2.1 on the afternoon meeting agenda which begins at 3:30 p.m. in the Vail Town Council Chambers.

Wildlife biologist Rick Thompson of Western Ecosystems, Inc. has been studying the movements of a bighorn sheep herd that reside on the north side of Interstate 70 above the Booth Creek neighborhood in East Vail in order to gain a better understanding of the status of the herd. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has documented a decline in the sheep’s population since the late 1990s.

The study follows a Vail Wildlife Forum hosted last January by the town and the Vail Symposium in which Thompson and other local biologists voiced their concerns about severely declining wildlife populations in the valley due to limited forage, recreational trail use and development. 

Thompson’s presentation will include information on the history of the herd, how they use their winter range and recommendations to improve their habitat. A series of maps will be shown identifying locations for recommended mitigation actions on land owned by the town, Colorado Department of Transportation and the U.S. Forest Service. Suggested actions include prescribed burns and cutting and thinning of downed aspen trees and decadent shrubs to improve the habitat. There are also recommendations on noise, sightlines, barriers, movement corridors and enhanced vegetation to address recreation access and future development considerations.

The study was initiated by Vail Resorts and Triumph Development Company, and the Town of Vail is continuing to work with Thompson on the greater habitat improvement project.

A second Vail Wildlife Forum is tentatively scheduled for the evening of March 6 at Donovan Pavilion.

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