Fort Robinson, Wildcat Hills offer bighorn sheep viewing events

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) in Wildcat Hills of Banner County. A bighorn sheep ewe jumps a fence in the Wildcat Hills south of McGrew. Haag, Jan. 31, 2018. Copyright NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.

CHADRON, Neb. – Two Panhandle parks are offering special opportunities to view the state’s best climbers – bighorn sheep.

The hikes, which each begin at 9 a.m., will be Friday, July 13, at Fort Robinson State Park west of Crawford and Saturday, July 14, at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center south of Gering.

Participants will gather at the parks and caravan to the sheep’s present range with the aid of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife technicians who use telemetry to monitor the animals. The Fort Robinson group will commence from the shelter at the entrance of the Soldier Creek campground. The Wildcat Hills excursion will start at the Nature Center. Participants are asked to prepare for up to three miles of hiking with appropriate footwear, sunscreen and water.

Bighorn sheep are native to the sandstone buttes and escarpments of the Panhandle but faced extirpation in the early 20th century because of disease, habitat loss and unregulated hunting. The Commission began reintroduction efforts in the 1980s.

The tours are free but a Nebraska park entry permit is required for vehicles.