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It's All About the Foothills

Watch out for sheep migrating through the Boise Foothills

by and

Those white spots you'll see in the Foothills over the next few weeks may not be patches of snow. In fact, instead of cold and melty, those spots may be woolly and moving.

Sheep ranchers have started the weeks-long process of moving flocks to higher summer grazing areas as the snow continues to recede. Up to 6,000 domestic sheep will head up the hillsides, and besides being a picturesque Idaho moment, it means that recreationists using the Foothills need to pay extra attention.

The flocks can often be found near some of the most popular trail areas, so interactions between people and sheep aren't uncommon. The problem comes when dogs are allowed off leash around the sheep.

Officials with the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission are asking that people give the sheep a wide berth and keep all dogs on a leash around the flocks. Dogs are the main cause of any conflict--usually by chasing those strange fluffy things--and not only does it endanger the sheep but the dogs as well. IRRC said each band of sheep is guarded by two Great Pyrenees dogs used to ward off predators like coyotes. If a pet dog goes after a sheep, the guard dogs might react like it's a threat.

The guard dogs also don't take kindly to fast-moving mountain bikers and may chase them. (Did we mention these dogs can easily hit 100 pounds?) To avoid any problems, mountain bikers are asked to dismount and walk past a flock since a walker isn't seen as a threat by the guard dogs.

If the sight of the sheep inspires you, the Foothills Learning Center is hosting a Woolly Wisdom event on Saturday, May 14. The public can check out sheep shearing, a border collie herding demonstration, vendors, kids activities, music and a book reading from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Just don't tell the sheep about the planned lamb luncheon from the Idaho Lamb Producers.

It's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the birth of Boise's Foothills serial levy, the landmark vote that led to the protection of more than 10,000 acres of undeveloped open space. You won't need to bring a present but a big birthday party is set for Saturday, May 7, 2-4 p.m. at the Boise Depot.

During the past decade, the levy has protected property with a market value of more than $30 million. In the last 18 months alone, the Foothills preservation effort acquired open space in the Stack Rock, Hammer Flat and Polecat Gulch areas.