Wild Sheep Transplant in Montana Postponed

The first wild sheep transplant to receive Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission approval in recent years is now on hold.


FWP has delayed a plan to transplant bighorn sheep from the south end of the Madison Range to the Wolf Creek drainage farther north after biologists confirmed three wild sheep deaths caused by pneumonia.

The Quake Lake herd had multiplied to about 200 and was outgrowing its habitat. Biologists wanted to remove some sheep to prevent an increased risk of disease.

In December, the FWP commission approved a plan to move up to 50 sheep to another site as part of a state plan to introduce wild sheep to five new locations.

That plan is now on hold until at least 2015.

Biologists don’t want to take the chance of transplanting infected bighorn sheep because that would doom the new herd.

Wild sheep are highly susceptible to bacteria that destroy their lung tissue and causes pneumonia. Once one member of the herd carries the bacteria, it can rapidly infect the rest of the herd through nose-to-nose contact.

Often, herds undergo large die-offs within months, losing 90 percent of their members to pneumonia.

FWP spokeswoman Andrea Jones said sometimes just a few sheep may show signs without the rest of the herd being infected.

In this case, biologists weren’t too concerned with the first death.

“There was a lot of support for this project, and we wanted it to go forward. But the third death was the final straw,” Jones said. “We’re being conservative, but we’re hopeful.”

Biologists will continue to monitor the herd over the next year and should be able to determine which members may have been exposed.

Article courtesty of Bozeman Daily Chronicle: http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/wildlife/article_e928f474-9447-11e3-9994-001a4bcf887a.html?mode=image&photo=0

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