Bighorn sheep have been removed from their habitat at ZooMontana as the zoo makes way for a future bison display.

Three sheep lived in the zoo exhibit for five years. The animals were in Billings on contract from a private rancher, said Jeff Ewelt, ZooMontana executive director.

He said the space at ZooMontana wasn't ideal for the sheep, and they decided not to renew the contract.

“We just decided to make the call," Ewelt said. "It was in the best interest of the sheep.”

At the same time, the zoo is planning a new bison exhibit, which will be constructed in early 2017. It will encompass three acres in the zoo's "homestead" area and represent the native Montana landscape.

It will be "Kind of a look back at the changes of the Montana plains over the history of that country," Ewelt said.

A bison exhibit has long been in ZooMontana's master plan, and Ewelt said that a recent gift from Valley Federal Credit Union will allow the zoo to move forward. In addition to bison, he said the zoo could eventually house other creatures in the exhibit, like prairie dogs or sandhill cranes.

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General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.