NewsIdaho Backroads

Actions

A record number of people watch sheep cross Highway 55 in Idaho

Posted at 4:10 PM, Apr 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-17 20:29:33-04

EAGLE, Idaho — Every spring Frank Shirts leads his flock of sheep from Wilder into the foothills north of Boise where they will feast on the grass during the summer.

But to make this journey, they have to cross Highway 55, and that gives people an opportunity to check out this Idaho tradition.

"This is just absolutely amazing, you know you are back in the west when they shut down a major highway so sheep can cross a major highway," said Scott Rand, who witnessed the crossing for the first time with his wife Rebecca. "It is surreal.”

A record number of people showed up to watch the Peruvian handlers and the sheepdogs guide this flock of 2,600 sheep across the highway.

Some Dry Creek residents made a day out of it by starting with the crossing and then they went back to their neighborhood for brunch.

"I follow Life on the Range on Facebook," said Patti Kimbrell. "So I’ve been asking them to let us know when the sheep cross will be coming again so I can plan an event."

Most of the people told us they found out about the crossing from it getting shared on Facebook, they also heard it on the news people and from friends.

The sheep migration has been happening since the 1880s and Wilder rancher Frank Shirts is one of the last of his kind.

Frank Shirts has had to endure a tough year because of the pandemic which drove the price of lamb down last summer, the market is recovering, but now the worry comes from the dry weather in March and April.

The foothills look brown and the purpose of taking the sheep into the foothills is so they can graze on grass before completing the migration, it is something wildland fire managers have told us helps with cutting down on grasses that could start a wildfire.

The sheep made a successful crossing and they continue their journey into the foothills, but not before impressing the people who showed up for the crossing.

“It was fun to watch the dogs and their herding ability to me that was more the show than watching the sheep go down the highway," said Scott Rand.

People do need to be aware that the sheep will be in the foothills below is a video that helps explain what to do if you come upon the flock, herders also ask the public to leave the sheepdogs alone as it is their job to guard the sheep.

Click here for the Care & Share program that highlights the collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management and the Idaho Rangeland Commission.