States Collaborate On Bighorn Disease Issues

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To improve the health of bighorn sheep (BHS) populations; a collaborative project between 3 states, two tribes, the U.S. Forest Service, BLM, and NGOs, exploring underlying factors that may affect M.ovi persistence/management and post-die-off efforts to restore BHS populations following pneumonia outbreaks.

This was Year 3 of a collaborative, multi-jurisdictional project encompassing seven BHS populations across three states, including a non-treatment (“control”) herd in Washington state.

The Wild Sheep Foundation committed $177,000 toward this Tri-State project, with Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Outdoor Fund ($30,000), the Pope & Young Club ($20,000), and the Creag Foundation ($2,500) contributing approximately 30% of this $177,000 total. For Year 3 of this multi-jurisdictional project, the total annual budget was $619,830, with WSF and our conservation partners contributing approximately 30% of the Year 3 funding.

Between September 2022 and March 2023, more than 350 BHS were caught and sampled/collared, then released on-site, at more than a dozen capture sites, in three states, using a combination of ground darting, drop net, and helicopter net-gun. Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG) captured BHS in December 2022 and March 2023, totaling 161 animals, in multiple locations (North Hells Canyon, S. Beaverhead, Lower Panther/Main Salmon River, Lower Salmon River, and South Hells Canyon).

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) captured and sampled 70 BHS in two populations between September 2022 and January 2023, using ground darting and helicopter net-gun. As part of a parallel project primarily funded by the BLM, ODFW captured 53 BHS in March 2023 in the Wenaha and Imnaha herds to update movement and habitat selection data. All 53 of these BHS tested negative for M.ovi, augmenting diagnostic findings for ID and WA-captured bighorns.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife captured and sampled 72 BHS in two populations via corral trap, ground darting, and helicopter net-gun.

Source: The Wild Sheep Foundation

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