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January 11th, 2021, the National Bighorn Sheep Center launched a Soil & Mineral Assessment in Torrey Valley. Led by Education Director, Karen Sullivan, and assisted by the Dubois’ High School AP Biology class, the Center sampled three mineral lick sites. Results will be compared to control locations and compared to results from over 20 years ago. The Center hopes to identify any factors that may be contributing to the decline of the Whiskey Mountain herd and is excited to embark in this research experience with local high school students.
The Center thanks the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation for a grant administered through the Wyoming Community Foundation that has allowed the Center to begin this initiative. The Center also thanks the students, biology teacher Samantha Schwessinger, Greg Anderson from WY Game & Fish, Jen Hazeldine, National Bighorn Sheep Center board member, and Erin Hannelly from Dubois-Crowheart Conservation District.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 4, 2021

The National Bighorn Sheep Center continues our soil & mineral lick assessment with the Dubois High School Biology students. Using the soil sampled on January 11th from Torrey Valley, Erin Hannelly from the Dubois-Crowheart Conservation District and Sara Bridge from the National Bighorn Sheep Center on February 23rd led Dubois High School Biology class (teacher Sam Schwessinger) in an analysis of the soil. The students compared the content from the mineral lick sites to control sites. Students tested for pH, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, and Potassium using aMotte Combination Soil Kit; model 5934-01. Results were as follows:

Mineral lick

pH – 8

Phosphorus – high

Nitrogen – did not change color
(either extreme trace amounts or test error)

Potassium – 6 (very high)

Control:

pH – 8

Phosphorus – high

Nitrogen – trace

Potassium – 12 (medium high)

Per Erin Hannelly’s summary, we found that there was a higher concentration of Potassium (K) in the mineral lick at Beck’s Bridge (sample #4) than in the control (sample #6).  These results are similar to those found by Mincher, et al. in 20081, though has not been a proven driving factor in the sheeps’ use of the licks.

Lab tests submitted to BYU in Utah were received by the Center this week. Karen Sullivan, Education Manager at the Center will compare results from over 20 years ago with support from Greg Anderson, Game & Fish Wildlife Biologist. The goal is to determine if there are any significant changes in mineral content over that time that could affect the health of the bighorn sheep.

Thanks to the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation for helping fund this project. Please visit our website for more details www.bighorn.org

1 Mincher, B.J., R.D. Ball, T.P. Houghton, J. Mionczynski, P.A. Hnilicka.  (2008)  Some aspects of geophagia in Wyoming bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).  Eur. J. Wild.l Res. (58): 193-198.