Before the 1900s, Audubon bighorn sheep inhabited
parts of western Nebraska including the Wildcat Hills, the Pine Ridge, along
the North Platte River to eastern Lincoln County, and along the Niobrara
River. It is thought that the Audubon bighorn probably became extinct in
the early 1900s with its last stronghold being the South Dakota badlands.
In 1981, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, with the help of the North American
Wild Sheep Foundation and the Nebraska Chapter of Safari Club International, began a
bighorn sheep introduction project in the Pine Ridge. A dozen bighorns were released into
a 500 acre enclosure at Fort Robinson State Park near Crawford where they could be viewed
In December 1988, 21 sheep were released from the pen and in January 1993, the
remaining 23 sheep were released. A few sheep, mostly rams, have ranged from the Fort Robinson
complex as far east as the Bordeaux Creek drainage southeast of Chadron, south near
Belmont, west near the Gilbert-Baker Wildlife Management Area and north in the Oglala
In March 2001, 22 sheep from Colorado were released in the Wildcat Hills south of Gering,
on Cedar Canyon WMA. This population has had excellent lamb production and survival and
is estimated to be 41 animals. To date, this translocation to establish Nebraska's second
bighorn populatin appears to be successful.
In January 2005, 49 sheep from Montana were released in the Pine Ridge east of Crawford on
Bighorn WMA. We expect that these sheep will add genetic diversity to the Pine Ridge
population and speed colonization of unused sheep habitat. The death of 9 adult ewes and
survival of 17 lambs leave us with a current population of 57.
In January 2007, 51 bighorn sheep from Montana were released in the Wildcat Hills south of McGrew. This release allows bighorns to occupy habitat in the Eastern Wildcat Hills.