A Year In The Life Of The Foothills Sheep Man

May 10, 2017

A couple of truckloads of sheep were delivered by truck to 8th Street above the Foothills Learning Center Monday. They are slowly heading north.

For experienced Boise Foothills trekkers, spotting sheep wandering through the scrub and pathways in the spring is not so unusual. But not everybody is familiar with the story of Frank Shirts and his sheep.

Shirts is a real-life sheep rancher with 12 bands (groups) of sheep. That adds up to about 28,000 ewes and lambs each year.

He runs the sheep from Wilder to the Boise and Payette National Forests each year, going where the food grows. And for a few weeks each spring you can spot his sheep as they disembark their trucks, heading into the foothills. 

From there, they head north to more forested climes.  But while they share the paths with bikers and hikers, the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission has some tips for getting along:

1. Keep your dogs on leash! Loose dogs can harass the sheep, including fragile young lambs. And the bands are protected by Great Pyrenees guard dogs who may think your dog is a threat to the sheep and defend their band. They're primarily there to keep the coyotes away from the sheep.

2. If you're on a bike, get off and walk through the area. The guard dogs may think you are playing or could charge or chase you. If you walk your bike, the dogs will leave you alone. If the dogs approach, talk to them and let them know you're a human, not a threat.

3. Feel free to take pictures, but give the sheep a wide berth. They need their space. 

What's it like to make your living from thousands of sheep? It's not an easy life, but it is fascinating. Here's a video featuring Frank Shirts and his sheepherders.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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