Alone in a New World With Vast Open Space, and Sheep – The New York Times

“ENGINEER PASS, Colo. — The baas, bleats and bells were fading ever so slightly, and the shepherd’s trained ear detected that his flock was veering off the path home, for this was the soundtrack of his life in the Rocky Mountains. “The sheep must be herded,” he said in Spanish, as he quickly ascended a hill overlooking a meadow.

Then the herder, Ricardo Mendoza, whistled loudly, commanding his two dogs to coax his 1,700 sheep closer to his campito, a tiny shed with a single sun-bleached word — “HOME” — over the door. His employer had hauled it up a winding, unpaved road used by 19th-century miners to this 13,000-foot pass shortly before Mr. Mendoza arrived with his horse, pack mule, dogs and sheep, ready to settle into the last outpost of his seasonal nomadic journey, about 65 miles north of Durango in western Colorado.

Mr. Mendoza, 46, has spent most of the past decade living in these rugged, remote mountains, herding sheep raised for wool and meat from spring to fall. “You live in complete solitude, just you, your animals and your thoughts,” he said, gazing at the windswept tundra below the soaring Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn peaks.”

David Lindsay: Good article, and comments. Here is one I liked:

Kevin Ott
Crested Butte, COSept. 23

This is a nice article romanticizing the grazing of domestic sheep high in the subalpine tundras of the American West. Just weeks ago, we backpacked across this exact area of the Uncompahgre Wilderness NE of Engineer Pass. Wilderness is no place for commercial animal grazing for any number of reasons. What the article did not mention are the demonstrable negative impacts of overgrazing and erosion caused by the grazing of large herds (hundreds to thousands) of domestic sheep in this delicate high elevation (12,000’ ) environment. This is Wilderness, or was. Also not mentioned is the very real impact on native Rocky Mountain Bighorns who populate these craggy locales. Domestic sheep transmit an ovine pneumonia (mycoplasma ovipneumonia) to the Bighorn population which is decimating Bighorn herds in the Rocky Mountain West. Keeping domestic sheep long distances away from the Bighorn herds is the only way to protect these dwindling, ever more isolated, majestic wild animal herds.

2 Replies75 Recommended

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