Idaho News

BOISE -- Those planning a springtime adventure in the Boise foothills may encounter thousands of fluffy, white sheep on the area's myriad dusty trails and lush meadows.

Just over 2,300 sheep will cross Bogus Basin Road Tuesday on their way to low-elevation pastures near the Table Rock area. Another group of 2,300 - properly called a 'band' - will follow in the coming weeks.

The annual journey finds these domesticated animals crossing Aldape Summit near Robie Creek and making their way toward the rugged mountains near Arrowrock Dam.

That's where 60-year-old rancher Frank Shirts hopes his lambs will fatten up for slaughter and his ewes will reach breeding grounds.

Shirts is one of about three ranchers in the Treasure Valley who run sheep ranching operations. He employees men like Mario Inga to lead his flocks into the mountains to graze and get ready for market.

Inga is 42-year-old Peruvian sheepherder who helps supply the mule camps used by younger men who walk alongside the sheep and guide them to pasture.

"They'll be two guys," Shirts explains. "One guy moves the tent -- helps him, moves the camp every couple three days. They just graze, work their way through the country."

Shirts says the sheepherders rely on Great Pyrenees guard dogs to keep both man and animal safe from coyotes, wolves, and other threats. He says that's why a bit of common courtesy from people who might cross their path is appreciated.

"They got big white dogs with them, and if you're going through ... If you're on a bike or motorcycle, get off and slowly walk through them and those dogs won't bother you," Shirts told KTVB. "They might come at you and bark and everything, but if they see you're not threat, they'll turn and walk away."

The sheep are expected to eat their way through the Eagle foothills and cross Bogus Basin Road by Tuesday.

They'll stay in the Boise National Forest until October, when it's time for these gentle creatures to return to the valley and be shorn for wool.

"Right now, we're making lambs, we're not trying to push 'em, just let 'em work through the country and graze, and then they'll come out and we'll shear 'em right here in the pastures in the fall," Shirts said.