VIDEO: Bighorn sheep find road salt irresistible in the Okanagan

Big horn sheep licking the salt on the roads on Highway 97 in Olalla. Ministry of Transportation has placed salt stations above the highway to deter this from happening. (Fred Allison Facebook)
Steve Pee's vehicle was blocked by more than a dozen bighorn sheep licking the salt off Eastside Rd in OK Falls last week. (Steve Pee video)

Big Horn sheep find road salt irresistible and their taste for it is creating a lot of close encounters along highways in the Okanagan and Similkameen this winter.

Several videos, pictures and close encounters have been showing up all over Penticton, OK Falls and Olalla since winter’s first snowfalls.

Stevie Pee took out his phone when more than a dozen Big Horn sheep blocked traffic along Eastside Rd. in OK Falls last week. The sheep had come down the mountain so they could lick the road salt.

Lakeside and Eastside Road are locations of large sheep populations. They tend to come down to the road during the winter months. It’s a particularly dangerous road for wildlife encounters because of how windy it is.

The Ministry of Transportation has been working to mitigate wildlife encounters on B.C. roads and has come up with some creative ideas. One pilot project is providing salt-lick stations to steer mountain goats away from highways. The ministry also uses dog hair to deter big horn sheep from roadsides in the Kootenays.

One salt lick station is located in the Keremeos-Cawston area on the hills above Highway 3A, above Olalla, to deter mountain goats from moving towards the highway. The salt is placed several hundred meters up in the bluffs, and is maintained in a specific spot for predictability, said a ministry spokesperson.

Similar salt licks also appear along Highway 31. The ministry is also supporting moose-salt lick monitoring studies by the University of Northern B.C. along Highway 16 in the north.

Other efforts for protecting wildlife safety include roadside signs warning drivers of wildlife present in known areas. There is wildlife fencing too, like the fenced section between Okanagan Falls and Gallagher Lake on Highway 97, to prevent sheep and other wildlife from entering the highway.

The ministry has modified bridges to increase safe wildlife passage (across Highway 3, east of Sparwood in southeastern B.C.).

Local Conservation Officer Dave Cox said encounters with wildlife on roads is all too common, especially in high migration corridors.

“Drivers always need to paying attention for wildlife and exercising caution when they see road signs about wildlife,” said Cox. “We all want to prevent injuring wildlife.”

But if you do encounter an injured or dead animal, call the RAPP Line at 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on the TELUS Mobility Network.



monique.Tamminga@pentictonwesternnews.com

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