It’s hard to miss the new electronic sign on the Refuge Road, but, more importantly, the message it delivers seems to be resonating with drivers traveling through an area often rich with bighorn sheep.
Borrowed from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, the flashing billboard is programmed to send out a short message addressing a growing concern on the wildlife refuge: bighorn sheep approaching vehicles and licking the sides of cars and trucks to ingest salt and minerals found on the surface. The number of characters the electronic sign can display limits extensive messaging, but it hits home the basics through a quick directive:
IF SHEEP APP’CH
KEEP DRIVING SLOWLY
Rather than issuing guidance on what not to do, the rotating phrases inform people of the appropriate action to take when sheep approach a car or are standing in the road. Intuitively, many motorists stop and give the animals their space, waiting for the wildlife to leave the road before continuing to drive. In the case of the bighorns, though, and their assertive quest for salt, the best practice is to remove any kind of reward and discourage the animals from congregating near the road.
“It’s never good to have animals learn to gather near a road,” explains Refuge Biologist Eric Cole. “It only adds to the likelihood of vehicle vs. wildlife collisions.”
A number of pullouts are scattered along the key stretch of Refuge Road where sheep can frequently be seen, giving wildlife watchers and photographers a chance to park further from the herd, removing the salt attractant and reducing the risk of the animals ingesting any harmful chemicals.
More information on safely viewing bighorn sheep on the Refuge Road can be viewed at http://bit.ly/2jtWxcW.
In the meantime, word of mouth, local news efforts, social media posts, and the electronic message board seem to be making a difference.