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Refuge encourages motorists to discourage licking

The National Elk Refuge has borrowed an electronic signboard from Teton County to warn motorists of approaching bighorn sheep. The sign is located near Miller Butte, where bighorn sheep are frequently seen during the winter.

The animals are looking for more than attention. Bighorn like to lick the sides of cars and trucks to ingest salt and minerals found on the surface. While motorists may be tempted to stop and give the animals space, refuge officials had different advice.

The sign flashes the warning ” IF SHEEP APP’CH KEEP DRIVING SLOWLY PREVENT LICKING.”

Biologists said 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,” said Refuge Biologist Eric Cole. “It only adds to the likelihood of vehicle vs. wildlife collisions.”

Officials said word-of-mouth and the message boards seem to be making a difference.

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