Addressing invasive plants to improve Bighorn Sheep habitat

Project Year: 2020-2021

Multi-year Project

View Provincial Database Record

Photo: Ben Meunier

Project Lead

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development


Columbia Region

East Kootenay

Project Type

Habitat-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment


Project ID


Invasive Plant Management on Bighorn Sheep Winter Ranges

The Invasive Plant Management on Bighorn Sheep Winter Ranges project, led by the Province of B.C., will implement a cooperative management and treatment strategy for invasive plants that will improve the existing quality of Bighorn Sheep ranges and reduce invasive plant coverage. Invasive plants are compromising the quality of low-elevation Bighorn Sheep winter ranges, particularly in Wigwam Flats and Bull River. Without a comprehensive invasive-plant management program, the continued rapid loss of forage quality and quantity will ultimately result in Bighorn Sheep population decline.

Update: Over 13 ha of bighorn sheep habitat treated for invasives in the East Kootenay

13.57 ha of bighorn sheep habitat in Bull River, Wigwam Flats, and Columbia Lake East were treated for invasives, including 400 kg of fertilizer applied to 4.9 ha in the Bull River area and 1,600 kg applied to 8.7 ha in Wigwam Flats. Approximately 150 kg of groundcover—including orchard grass, sheep fescue, June grass, and fall rye seed mix—was placed in Bull River area and a further 100 kg at Wigwam Flats. It was distributed along the treated roadside and low slopes.

Final report: executive summary

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) are blue listed (vulnerable) within BC due to threats such as loss of habitat, predators and disease. Some bighorn sheep populations within the Kootenay Boundary Region have decreased since 2010. Possible causes of decline are increased winter severity, increased predator populations, and reduced winter range habitat condition.

In the Forest Practices Board Report (2016) on rangelands, invasive plants were identified as an issue that threatens the sustainability of rangelands over the long term. Invasive plants are capable to alter habitats and disrupt essential ecosystem functions by displacing native vegetation. Invasive plants reduce soil productivity, impact water quality and quantity, degrade range resources and wildlife habitat, threaten biodiversity, and alter natural fire regimes. With declining effectiveness of biocontrol for St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in the East Kootenay and rapid invasion of new invasive plant species such as yellow hawkweed (Hieracium spp), intensified invasive plant management is required to restore bighorn sheep winter ranges.


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