Ten Mile Creek Ranch set as friendly turf for bighorn sheep

A group of bighorn sheep ewes stands on the edge of cliffs on the Ten Mile Creek Ranch south of Lewiston.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Western Rivers Conservancy are partnering to protect bighorn sheep habitat on a private ranch south of Lewiston with a conservation easement.

According to a joint news release from the two entities, an easement that prevents the 2,920-acre Ten Mile Creek Ranch along the Snake River from being subdivided was recently placed on the property that was subsequently sold to an unnamed private buyer. The ranch includes 4 miles of Snake River shoreline, and fall chinook spawn just off its banks. The steep slopes and cliffs on the river breaks are used by bighorn ewes as a safe place to give birth and raise their lambs. According to the news release, 50 percent to 80 percent of the northern Hells Canyon herd of bighorns use the ranch.

The conservancy purchased the ranch in 2018 and at the time said it was seeking to eventually sell it to a conservation-minded buyer. The property includes a 5,000-square-foot primary residence and a 2,000-square-foot caretaker’s home, but is otherwise undeveloped. It abuts the Redbird unit of Fish and Game’s Craig Mountain Wildlife Habitat Management Area, and private farm and ranch land.

“This is an extremely important stretch of the Snake River, and we feel very proud of what we were able to accomplish for bighorns and salmon through this partnership,” said Zach Spector, project operations director for the conservancy.

The easement will help bighorn sheep to continue to use the area and help them avoid domestic sheep and goats, which are a source of pneumonia that has plagued wild sheep in Hells Canyon and across the West for decades.

“Recovering bighorn sheep populations depends on protecting places like Ten Mile Creek Ranch,” said Frances Cassirer, senior wildlife research biologist for the department. “In addition to providing habitat for lambs and access to the river, wild sheep need to be able to move through country where they won’t be exposed to pathogens carried by domestic sheep and goats that have decimated the species and continue to limit population restoration. This project accomplishes exactly that.”

Barker may be contacted at ebarker@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2273. Follow him on Twitter @ezebarker.

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