Sharing the slopes

Will skiers compromise to help a dwindling herd of bighorn sheep?


A bighorn sheep in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
Pete Cairns/NPL/Minden Pictures

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According to biologists, backcountry skiers are one of the top threats facing an isolated herd of bighorn sheep in the Teton Range today. Research shows the sheep abandon areas frequented by skiers and rarely return, expending calories they need to survive the winter. In response, world-renowned athlete Kim Havell started avoiding sensitive areas and tried to convince others to voluntarily do the same (“When the love of skiing endangers wildlife,” March 2020). “We’re pushing wildlife out of their habitat,” she said.

In October, a working group of biologists proposed over 20,000 new acres of winter closures to protect the bighorn sheep. Some of the skiing community pushed back, despite the years of local feedback incorporated in the group’s proposal. Now, Grand Teton National Park and two national forests in Idaho and Wyoming must decide how to proceed. Renee Seidler, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation’s executive director, supports the closures, saying in a public meeting, “I don’t want to be part of the generation” that lets the mountain ungulates go.

Kylie Mohr is an editorial intern for High Country News writing from Montana. Email her at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.


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