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Big horn sheep festival in Moab this weekend

A chance to view desert bighorn sheep in sunny southeastern Utah awaits Nov. 17 and 18 as the Division of Wildlife Resources hosts its annual Moab Bighorn Sheep Festival.

The event is free, and people of all ages are invited to attend.

Sheep watchers are encouraged to bring a pair of binoculars or a spotting scope along with snacks, beverages and a camera. DWR biologists will guide participants to locations where bighorns have been recently observed. The biologists will have extra spotting scopes and binoculars for people to use. They'll also have several large four-wheel drive vehicles for those who don't have the type of vehicle needed to reach the areas where the sheep are.

The festival begins on Friday evening, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Moab Information Center, located at the corner of Center and Main. Bill Bates, the DWR's wildlife manager for southeastern Utah, will present a PowerPoint program on bighorn sheep ecology and their life history. Bates studied desert bighorn sheep in the Moab area for his Master's Degree thesis. He will display skulls and horns of bighorn sheep and answer any questions.

At 8 a.m. the following morning (Nov. 18) participants will gather again at the Moab Information Center, where they'll split into groups and go in search of bighorn sheep. A DWR wildlife biologist will guide each caravan of vehicles. All of the parties will be in radio contact with each other, so everyone can be advised as soon as sheep are spotted.

Those who drive their own vehicle can leave the group at any time. For those who ride with DWR biologists, the field trips generally finish by noon or early afternoon.

The festival has been scheduled for the Nov. 17 - 18 weekend because bighorn sheep are in the rut at that time. Bighorn rams seek out ewes for breeding and engage other rams in head-butting and other ritual showmanship. This makes for exciting public viewing.

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