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Fire burns through area where bighorns released
The Ferris Fire was approaching 50 percent containment Wednesday evening. Photo by Randy Tucker

Fire burns through area where bighorns released

Aug 2, 2012 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A 3,700-acre wildfire burned through an area of south-central Wyoming where bighorn sheep had been reintroduced, and while there's no evidence any sheep died, biologists say it isn't yet known whether the fire helped or hurt the vegetation that supports them.

"It's right smack dab where the sheep are, but it's also right where we were hoping to have a prescribed burn in two or three years," state biologist Greg Hiatt said. "So it's just going to be a question whether or not it burned too hot for what we'd like to see in the middle of the summer instead of either a spring or fall burn like we typically do."

Separately, firefighters have gained 47 percent containment on another 2,800-acre wildfire burning in the Ferris Mountain west of the Seminoe Fire, Gregory said.

The Seminoe Fire was started by lightning, while the cause of the Ferris Fire is under investigation.

The Seminoe Fire began on July 21 and is now contained, but the fire is still burning inside the containment lines.

Fire spokeswoman Shelley Gregory said Wednesday that firefighters reported seeing one sheep in the area, but fire managers had not received any reports of bighorn sheep lost to the fire.

"The way the fire traveled the sheep just did what they normally would do and travel up the rocky canyons and that pretty much offered them protection from the fire," Gregory said. "When you're on the rocks there's no vegetation to burn, so that's probably the safest place to be anyway."

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department transplanted 52 bighorn sheep to the area in 2009 and 2010. Hiatt said there could be up to 80 sheep there now.

Hiatt said studies have shown that sheep are adept at escaping wildfires.

"The human activity they don't like, but the fire doesn't seem to bother them," he said.

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