More Montana Sheep woes

Randy11

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I don't even know what to say anymore.

Is our bighorn sheep management sustainable? If something doesn't change I just don't see us hunting sheep in Montana much longer.
 

tjones

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I don't even know what to say anymore.

Is our bighorn sheep management sustainable? If something doesn't change I just don't see us hunting sheep in Montana much longer.

I suspect it won't be long and we will see the end of sheep hunting in western Montana.
 

Bambistew

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A boycott of lamb chops,wool, etc... won't work. Remember very few people care about wild sheep, much less know about them. Good luck getting rid of the hobby 'ranchers' and people with pet goats.

Why is there not more interest or money spent on disease prevention/vaccination for wild sheep? IMO, this is the only way to actually save the sheep. The band-aids provided by the various sheep foundations are just that... We're never going to get rid of domestics. Its getting to the point that there are so few sheep, that capturing and inoculating them may be a realistic endeavor.
 

tjones

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I am not aware of any domestics near this herd this time. Neither is FWP. Now that does not mean there is not some hobby tucked back up some draw.

In 2009 there was about 12 domestics that I suspect caused that die off. They have since been removed. The first sick ram found was an 8 year old, which means he survived the last die off, this time around he didn't make it. Bambi hit the nail on the head, disease prevention/vaccination needs ramped up and quick.

Its not pretty when sheep start dying.

 

Schaaf

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How much longer do we have to try the same attempts that haven't worked in the past?

Definition of insanity in my books.
 

Oak

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Why is there not more interest or money spent on disease prevention/vaccination for wild sheep? IMO, this is the only way to actually save the sheep. The band-aids provided by the various sheep foundations are just that... We're never going to get rid of domestics. Its getting to the point that there are so few sheep, that capturing and inoculating them may be a realistic endeavor.

Why do you think there is not interest or money being spent on this? What are the band-aids you refer to?

Colorado has 7,000 wild sheep. I don't think it's realistic to believe we could inoculate them, even if something was available. And the leading disease researchers believe that we are a minimum of 10-15 years from developing a vaccine, if it is even possible. The more feasible solution would be to develop a vaccine for domestic sheep that eliminates the bacteria that cause respiratory disease, but there are a host of them believed to be associated.

I don't view reducing the risk of disease transmission from domestic sheep to wild sheep as a "band-aid," but I'm interested in hearing why you might think it is.
 

sra61

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My fear is that here in Montana for whatever reason we are about to lose pretty much all of our prized sheep herds! I really wanted to have a chance to hunt one just once! It seems like we are real close to having this pneumonia spread all across the state. I read that the Sun River herd has it too. Pretty much the only area that I haven't heard it being in is the Breaks, but it is probably just a matter of time there too. It kind of seems inevitable. Do the other western states not have this problem? And if not what is the difference?
 

Bambistew

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You can un-ruffle your feathers... I'm on your side. For as many sheep organizations as there are, you'd think we'd have more sheep on the mountain... yet we have fewer virtually everywhere. Hence the band-aid comment. IMO, the sheep population peaked 10-15 years ago, and will slowly decline until they're gone unless something is done. Hoping and praying that you can get the domestics to be vaccinated is a wish that will never happen. Look at the bison/elk politics in Montana!

Every state struggles to maintain the population they currently have. Yes the band-aids are slowing the decline, or somewhat maintaining the population. But in my mind, a successful program actually increases the population to what the habitat can support, while a band-aid keeps them from bleeding out. They only way we are ever going to get more sheep on the mountain is to eliminate the disease transmission. Reducing it only goes so far. Imagine the range wild sheep could occupy if they could be in proximity to domestics...

Even if there was a vaccine for domestics, and it was mandatory, you will never get full compliance. Look at rabies vaccines in cats/dogs. You're lucky to have 40% compliance and its a required by law to do so! You really think every sheep/goat farmer is going to vaccinate their animals?

IMO if you want to save the sheep, you have to save the sheep, not look at ways to reduce their likelihood of contracting a disease. While its the best we can do now, its just a matter of time. Even if you could get half of them vaccinated, that would be a huge game changer, IMO. But it won't be cheap.

Was just talking to the local Bio here who had a lamb collaring program the last few years. He think they could capture 90% of the lambs, given enough resources and good weather. They achieved just that a couple years running. Caught nearly every lamb they found. They had a bunch of collared ewes, which they caught all their lams each year, 3 years in a row. They caught something like 100 lambs over the course of a couple weeks each year. A team of 3-4 and a single helo... Its possible but will take a few more governors tags. ;)
 

sra61

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Was just talking to the local Bio here who had a lamb collaring program the last few years. He think they could capture 90% of the lambs, given enough resources and good weather. They achieved just that a couple years running. Caught nearly every lamb they found. They had a bunch of collared ewes, which they caught all their lams each year, 3 years in a row. They caught something like 100 lambs over the course of a couple weeks each year. A team of 3-4 and a single helo... Its possible but will take a few more governors tags. ;)
See something like that I could get behind. I think a lot of guys would. I would donate bucks or time for something like that. If vaccinated would the population eventually develop immunity? If you vaccinate the pregnant ewe doesn't it pass on to the lamb, or not? It seems like as low as the wild sheep numbers are likely to get, that is the best option to turn the thing around. I could be wrong.
 

Oak

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My feathers weren't ruffled. I know what I'm doing. It just sounded like you hadn't educated yourself on the vaccine issue before commenting, so I asked for clarification. Hoping and praying that we can develop a vaccine for wild sheep isn't going to make it happen. So what are you going to do about it?

Catching 100 lambs in a couple of weeks isn't the same as catching the lambs from a population of 7,000 sheep, scattered across some of the roughest country in the lower 48. Not feasible. You could vaccinate on a small scale, but you're not going to save and grow sheep that way. It's no less a band-aid than trying to reduce the risk of contact on public lands.

I know we are not going to get rid of hobby farmers and 4-H kids with sheep, but I am less concerned about those than I am with 2,000 head of domestics roaming the mountainsides each summer within occupied bighorn sheep habitat. Reducing that risk is a worthwhile cause, IMO. Doesn't do any good to develop a vaccine if there are no sheep left when it is finally accomplished in 30 years.
 

Bambistew

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Catching 100 lambs in a couple of weeks isn't the same as catching the lambs from a population of 7,000 sheep, scattered across some of the roughest country in the lower 48. Not feasible. You could vaccinate on a small scale, but you're not going to save and grow sheep that way. It's no less a band-aid than trying to reduce the risk of contact on public lands.

Fair enough with the bandaid comparison, but if you could effectively eradicate the disease in the wild population would it not be a much easier solution than trying to get 100,000 hobby ranchers to comply? Making the ag industry come up with a solution to save wild sheep is a waste of time. Its not going to happen. They don't care about sage grouse, mule deer, bison, etc, etc. And sure as hell don't care about sheep.

Not saying that you would have to capture lambs, just saying its not impossible. And a 100 lambs is a hell of a lot of sheep for one small crew. Anything can be done with time and money... You wouldn't necessarily have to capture 7000 either.

How successful was the last vaccination program in CO, bait and areal capture? I remember them doing it, but don't know how well they did. I want to say they had pretty high success, unfortunately it was for the wrong pathogen.

I would challenge your Colorado ruggedness against the Chugach where those lamb captures took place all day long. I've spent quite a bit of time in CO sheep country. Half the sheep in CO could be caught on the highway in the winter. ;)
 

Oak

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I don't think the Chugach is in the lower 48. And I don't think many of the ewes here lamb in the winter. ;)
 

1_pointer

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Indiana
Just question, but does anyone have an idea of the sheep populations (wild vs. domestic) over time? Even if for just one state. My guess is that there are a lot fewer domestics now than say 50yrs ago in most all western states. What about wild sheep?

Reason I ask is I'm wondering is due to the amount of disease transmission. Are current domestics "dirtier" than older herds? It would seem more domestics would have been harder on the wild sheep, but without knowing the numbers I don't know.

PS- I know the rough relationship between domestic sheep and mule deer numbers... ;)
 

SnowyMountaineer

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Here's domestic. Is it possible that we're dealing with latency in wild herds, with the full disease expression brought on by confounding factors that weaken the immune response (maybe parasites/tick load, winter range degradation, etc.)? It's nearly never a single variable that results in disease die off in any wild animal herd.

US-lamb-and-sheep-numbers_1940-2000.jpg
 

brendog84cj8

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Dang that is not good news. Sure surprised me. I was down in that country a few weeks ago cutting firewood and saw a nice ram in a yard off the east fork road and he looked healthy. Also saw a small bunch of rams and a few ewes off 93 on the east side of the road a few miles north of the east fork road and all of those looked healthy and were not coughing.
 
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