Culture

Family-friendly festival focuses on Colorado’s state mammal

GeorgetownBighorn_Sheep

GEORGETOWN
Join Georgetown and Colorado Parks & Wildlife in celebrating Colorado’s state mammal at the 9th Annual Georgetown Bighorn Sheep Festival, Nov. 8. Event highlights include speakers, educational programs and activities, wildlife-related art and gifts. The family-friendly event will also feature children’s activities, music, hikes, tours and much more. It is a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of rutting sheep in one of Colorado’s oldest Bighorn sheep herds.

During the event, the Bighorn Sheep Viewing Station, located on Argentine Street near the Georgetown Lake, will be manned by volunteers and Division of Wildlife employees to help visitors learn about Colorado’s state mammal. Spotting scopes are provided and other activities abound. Short wildlife educational programs are offered in the Community Center for the whole family. Additional activities for the children include Kids Corner Crafts, face painting, Colorado Critters Parade, and the Bighorn Hokey Pokey.

The Georgetown Wildlife Viewing area is a shelter located at the edge of Georgetown Lake, less than a mile from “downtown” Georgetown. The viewing shelter offers coin operated viewing binoculars and interpretive signs that tell the story of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep that live on the nearby hillside. Between 300 and 400 sheep make up what is called the “Georgetown herd,” though the sheep use the mountain habitat for several miles around the area.

Named for their massive headgear—the head and horns may weigh 40 pounds—bighorn are closely related to domestic sheep. The males are called rams, the females are ewes and the young are lambs. They live on sunny mountain slopes, usually above 8,000 feet, where there is plenty of grass and a clear uphill escape route. Stocky-bodied with strong legs, bighorn sheep are well-designed for bounding over mountain slopes. Their flexible hooves are equipped with soft, spongy pads to help cling to rocks. Even newborn lambs can follow their mothers over the rugged terrain within a few days of their birth.

Bighorn sheep can be seen from the Georgetown viewing area any month of the year, but the best viewing is in the late fall and early winter. This is the time of the bighorn sheep courtship and mating season and their activities bring the animals all together offering the chance to see dramatic courtship displays.

To get to the viewing station, take I-70 west from Denver to the Georgetown exit 22 8. Turn left on Alvarado Road and follow the brown and white binocular signs until reaching the viewing station near Georgetown Lake.

Originally published in the November 2014 issue of the MMAC Monthly

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