Gardiner Bighorn Sheep die off, possible closure HD 305

katqanna

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Bighorn die-off could close district to hunting

I hate the visual juxtaposing of information about a dieoff with images of live sheep that send mixed messages to the brain. Here is a pic of one of the dead sheep in Gardiner from pneumonia brought in by Bill Hoppes domestic sheep this winter. Deby Dixon is a wildlife photographer from the area and gave me permission for the pic. This is totally inexcusable and could have been prevented.



At least 30 percent of the Gardiner bighorn sheep herd and 40 percent or more of the mature rams have died this winter from pneumonia.

The die-off has prompted Montana's Fish and Wildlife Commission to meet via a telephone conference call at 8:30 a.m. Monday to consider an emergency closure of bighorn sheep hunting in the district, Hunting District 305.

This winter, FWP documented a minimum loss of 30 sheep found mostly in the Gardiner and Cinnabar areas.

For the upcoming season, one legal ram permit was offered in the district. Should the season there be closed, anyone who already applied for HD 305's permit will be offered the opportunity to apply elsewhere or be given a refund. Last year about 100 hunters applied for the district's lone permit. The deadline to apply for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison permits is May 1.

The teleconference will originate at FWP Helena headquarters, 1420 East Sixth Ave. Public comment will only be taken in Helena.
 

brownbear932008

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Very sad that is the unit I have been applying when available to NR. I always enjoy driving down the valley looking and taking pictures of those sheep in the area. That so called "outfitter" should pay for such crazy acts causing this. It is beyond my reasoning as to why a guy would commit such acts since his business depends on hunting and wildlife. Real winner in my book!
 

Big Foot

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This picture next to one of Kat's pics of Hoppe's domestic sheep commingling in the Gardiner area tell the whole story. Sad.
 

katqanna

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This is that pic that Kevin Hurley got last fall of Hoppes sheep by the Yellowstone River and one of the Gardiner Bighorn rams. I need to do a graphic composite:
domestic + bighorns = dead bighorns.

 

RobertR

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This happened to the big horns just out of Melrose.
I'm not sticking up for domestics sheep owners but the problem is mostly agriculture fields that draw game animals to good feed and easy water. Wild animals have no boundaries and most fences and water barriers are not a deterrent.
With the Hoppe case I belive he done this intesionaly because of the wolves but it also effected other animals in the process.
We all want big horns, but how do we keep them away from private property.
 

mtmander

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Sad, it seems like here are more and more die offs lately, or I just can not remember die offs from past years. I miss watching the bighorns from Rock Creek. I saw a few last year but no rams.
 

SnowyMountaineer

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This issue is only simple to the simple minded. It goes from small town MT/ID/WY all the way to D.C. with no shortage of emotion and $$$ from both sides. Any reasonable layperson or scientist worth their salt would oppose co-mingling, but a savvy person knows that being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
 

BuzzH

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Guys like Bill Hoppes and Frank Robbins are callous a-holes that have no concern for wildlife, sportsmen, or anything else.

No excuse for their actions, bitter, sorry excuses for human beings, and I'm being as nice as I can be.
 

LopeHunter

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Killing off a wild herd at a rate of decline that is unsustainable for a healthy herd is bad game management. Intentionally doing so is nothing less than the planned assassination of those wild animals. Oh, to be a fly on the wall and observe if the domestic sheep's owner even sheds a single tear or instead never pauses for a millisecond to ponder how the wild sheep staggers then falls to the ground gasping for breaths as the lungs continue to fill with fluid.

We take pride as hunters to take ethical shots. Not every shot is lethal within seconds and some of us have tossed and turned as tried to sleep while awaiting sunrise so could go back out and attempt to track down an animal we shot and have not yet found. Is a terrible feeling to rethink the shot and worry that there may be a wounded animal out there still to be found and put down as humanely and quickly as possible.

As the stock truck was loaded and the doors shut as it started on its journey towards the grazing lands so close to wild sheep habitat, did the owner understand the impact that was an almost certainty to happen as the domestic and wild sheep mingled? Presumably so since most ranchers are hunters or have considered allowing hunting on their lands.

My greatest fear is I become someone so jaded that I could send those domestic sheep on that journey.
 

Gr8bawana

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We have some bighorns near Boulder city NV that tested positive for pneumonia and I'm wondering how they contracted it since there are no domestic sheep around for hundereds of miles.
I may never draw a bighorn tag now.
 

Oak

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This issue is only simple to the simple minded. It goes from small town MT/ID/WY all the way to D.C. with no shortage of emotion and $$$ from both sides. Any reasonable layperson or scientist worth their salt would oppose co-mingling, but a savvy person knows that being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
All true. It is unfortunate that the BHS $$$ is largely being spent on research and the DS $$$ is largely being spent to argue the science.
 
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Couple facts people should know before jumping to conclusions. Fish and Game still does not know cause of pneumonia. The domestic sheep in question have never been in district 305 where the die off has happened. In district 303, where domestic sheep are located, there have been no signs of pneumonia.......It makes me as sick as anyone seeing sheep die off where i live and hunt but me for one am not going to point fingers when so much is yet to be determined.
 

MHMT

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Couple facts people should know before jumping to conclusions. Fish and Game still does not know cause of pneumonia. The domestic sheep in question have never been in district 305 where the die off has happened. In district 303, where domestic sheep are located, there have been no signs of pneumonia.......It makes me as sick as anyone seeing sheep die off where i live and hunt but me for one am not going to point fingers when so much is yet to be determined.
Also some fun facts people might want to know; Hunting district 305 is across the river in that picture with the domestics. Also, there is plenty of literature that suggests when you put bighorns with domestics, the bighorns die.
 

Dinkshooter

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Couple facts people should know before jumping to conclusions. Fish and Game still does not know cause of pneumonia. The domestic sheep in question have never been in district 305 where the die off has happened. In district 303, where domestic sheep are located, there have been no signs of pneumonia.......It makes me as sick as anyone seeing sheep die off where i live and hunt but me for one am not going to point fingers when so much is yet to be determined.
Are you a domestic sheep rancher or related to one?
 

Oak

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Couple facts people should know before jumping to conclusions. Fish and Game still does not know cause of pneumonia. The domestic sheep in question have never been in district 305 where the die off has happened. In district 303, where domestic sheep are located, there have been no signs of pneumonia.......It makes me as sick as anyone seeing sheep die off where i live and hunt but me for one am not going to point fingers when so much is yet to be determined.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't those domestic sheep within a stone's throw of 305? Do you understand foray behavior of bighorn sheep, especially during the rut?

I think it is time for the WAFWA Wild Sheep Working Group to develop a sampling protocol (techniques, numbers of samples, etc) for bighorn sheep and domestic sheep herds in the vicinity of respiratory disease outbreaks in order to determine the strain(s) of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae present. An offering to test domestic sheep, at no cost to them, to prove disease did not come from their flock, should seem fair and sensible to everyone.

On federal lands, perhaps it is time that we develop and implement a protocol for sampling domestic sheep for the presence of MOVI before sheep are turned out on ranges where they threaten wild sheep populations.

The point is that the domestic industry cannot continue to deny the role of disease and its impact to bighorn sheep, without consequences. If we need more proof outside of the clinical setting, then let's do what is necessary to collect that data.
 

SnowyMountaineer

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't those domestic sheep within a stone's throw of 305? Do you understand foray behavior of bighorn sheep, especially during the rut?

I think it is time for the WAFWA Wild Sheep Working Group to develop a sampling protocol (techniques, numbers of samples, etc) for bighorn sheep and domestic sheep herds in the vicinity of respiratory disease outbreaks in order to determine the strain(s) of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae present. An offering to test domestic sheep, at no cost to them, to prove disease did not come from their flock, should seem fair and sensible to everyone.

On federal lands, perhaps it is time that we develop and implement a protocol for sampling domestic sheep for the presence of MOVI before sheep are turned out on ranges where they threaten wild sheep populations.

The point is that the domestic industry cannot continue to deny the role of disease and its impact to bighorn sheep, without consequences. If we need more proof outside of the clinical setting, then let's do what is necessary to collect that data.
Absolutely. It's pretty rare that research in natural systems can answer short term questions without ambiguity. I think this is a case where it really can.
 

shoots-straight

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Couple facts people should know before jumping to conclusions. Fish and Game still does not know cause of pneumonia. The domestic sheep in question have never been in district 305 where the die off has happened. In district 303, where domestic sheep are located, there have been no signs of pneumonia.......It makes me as sick as anyone seeing sheep die off where i live and hunt but me for one am not going to point fingers when so much is yet to be determined.
What herd of wild sheep resides closer to the domestic sheep in 303? The 305 sheep, or the 303?

A river is not a boundary to wild sheep. When I saw the wild sheep with the domestic ones, I made the statement that the wild sheep needed shot before he transmitted the disease to the rest of his gang. Interesting is the fact that Hoppe moved his domestic sheep in,and the wild ones died, or just coincidence? Strange that's the outcome every time.
 

katqanna

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Oak, that is a very good idea about testing protocol for grazing on public lands.

In the case of the die offs in North Dakota this last fall, the media kept writing the articles like it stemmed from Alberta, not the hobby herd owned by the little girl. I spoke with the ND wildlife biologist and he said unfortunately they did not test the bighorns before they left Alberta to prove there was nothing from the source herd, seeing no reason to since that source herd has provided sheep to numerous states with no fatalities. The hobby herd was moved and the ag sheep industry jumped in and used gaps in data like this one to cast reasonable doubt. As a result two states that have since received Alberta sheep from that herd have had them tested before shipping and nothing from the source herd. The domestic hobby herd owners refused to be tested to see if it was the source.

In this case here in Gardiner, when I last spoke with Jennifer Ramsey, FWP's wildlife veterinarian, they were still waiting on the lab results (I forgot to call her last week to find out the results, but she was fairly certain from symptomology that it was pneumonia), I asked if they had asked Hoppe to test his sheep. He had been asked and refused. From a news article, Dec. 2013, it stated, "Weatherly talked to Hoppe in April to propose some alternatives such as helping Hoppe find a different pasture or installing a double fence around the pasture. Weatherly said Hoppe wasn't receptive to any alternatives." This has been his attitude regardless of the group or organization approaching him to protect the Bighorns.

Shoots, Hoppes sheep are close to both (map below) - there is the Beattie Gulch to Cinnabar herd unit, west of the Yellowstone River and the Travertine to Deckard Flats on the east. Hoppes sheep have been at two locations, both east of the Yellowstone - one directly on the river which is where the Hurley picture was taken; the second up Jardine Road where Hoppe lives and Bighorns also have been seen, which is listed as the Travertine to Deckard Flats (East Yellowstone). That is information from FWP Wildlife biologist Karen Loveless' report I requested as part of the Montana bighorn sheep and mountain goat population survey data I requested from all the FWP regions mid-Aug.

In Loveless' 2014 report
Disease events can occur within bighorn sheep populations for a variety of reasons, with evidence of increased disease risk as population densities increase as well as increased risk with exposure to domestic sheep and goats. The upper Yellowstone bighorn sheep population is experiencing both of these risk factors; two known domestic sheep operations have been established within the population’s winter range in recent years,
They had a previous dieoff in these areas back in the 1980's, but it was not due to pneumonia, it was due to pink eye, so you have to be careful of information released or written up in the media referring to other dieoffs that might try to spin it as something other than this one is due to, or that it is normal to have these periodic dieoffs.

North of Tom Miner Basin, the Point of Rocks herd unit, which if I read the Bighorn map correctly, is in HD 300:
During 2013 there was a disease event in the Point of Rocks area. Eight bighorn sheep carcasses were retrieved from the Point of Rocks winter range between February and March, including 6 rams and 2 lambs, and the population dropped from over 50 sheep observed in December of 2012 to 32 sheep observed in March 2013. We were able to necropsy and submit lung samples from 4 of these and results confirmed bacterial pneumonia as likely cause of death in 3 of the necropsied sheep (both Mannheimia hemolytica and Mycoplasma ovipnuemonia (M. ovi) were cultured from the lungs of 3 sheep).
I just made this map, crossing the FWP Bighorn sheep 2014 map from the Loveless report, with the Montana Cadastral of Hoppe's residence and the known leased parcel from his relative on the river, the FWP Bighorn Sheep Hunt District map. Hoppe lives on Jardine Rd, the southern yellow dot. He moves the sheep between that location and the small parcel leased from a relative north of Little Trail Creek, just across the Yellowstone River from Beattie Gulch. Those Bighorn on the west side of the river range up and down that north/south corridor there and have crossed the river. Since the FWP HD map is very basic, I cannot be sure if the western side of 305 is at the peak of those mountains or on the western side of the slope, so I approximated the western boundary of 305. Hope this helps to visualize what is going on. I cant remember the exact location of the other domestic sheep herd that is north of all this.

 

BigHornRam

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Kat,

Have you ever watched Gordon Eastman's film "The Phantom Ram"? Lambs on Mount Washburn (summer range for many of the Gardiner areas ewes and lambs) were coughing from pneumonia back in the 80's. I've seen sick lambs there in the 90's. While Hoppe's domestics may very well be the cause of this die off, it is not for certain.
 

BigHornRam

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"Weatherly talked to Hoppe in April to propose some alternatives such as helping Hoppe find a different pasture or installing a double fence around the pasture. Weatherly said Hoppe wasn't receptive to any alternatives." This has been his attitude regardless of the group or organization approaching him to protect the Bighorns.
Jim tried to reason with Hoppe. How do you reason with the unreasonable?
 
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