Thursday, December 3, 2009
Looking For Sick Bighorn Sheep
HAMILTON - FWP Biologists and volunteers combed the hills of the East Fork of the Bitterroot on Wednesday in an effort to slow the spread of disease killing bighorn sheep. Of the eight collected all were dead or dying of the pneumonia-like disease.
This is the first time culling has been tried in Montana.
Dieoffs have occurred often in bighorn sheep and in the past nothing was done and dramatic die-offs in the 60-80% range resulted. Over the past several weeks biologists and others have collected about 40 of the estimated 200 in the herd.
Other volunteers are checking the bighorn herds in the West Fork and Skalkaho drainages.
The dead sheep were delivered to a mobile state wildlife laboratory where researchers took tissue, blood and fecal samples.
While the cause of the die-offs remains controversial, researchers at Washington State University have pretty much concluded domestic sheep are the culprits…obviously conclusions sheep-men don’t agree. But a die-off almost 30 years ago in the East Fork was pretty much proven to have started when domestic and bighorn sheep mixed together on state land.