Whose Sheep? How wild sheep lose out to their domesticated brethren

Earlier I linked to the WWP blog story “Bighorn Sheep Threaten Western Way of Life?

Now the Boise Weekly has reprinted an article from High Country News giving more background into the controversy that led to the successful lawsuit this spring that kept the Payette National Forest from ignoring its court ordered duty to keep the domestic sheep and bighorn sheep apart.

Whose Sheep? How wild sheep lose out to their domesticated brethren. By Nathaniel Hoffman, High Country News.

This issue will be back next spring.

Just a few domestic sheep and bighorn sharing the same country could set off disease that would undo a generation of efforts to restore bighorn to the Idaho/Oregon border at Hells Canyon.



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  1. Russell Williams Avatar
    Russell Williams

    I find the ranchers opinion of the transfer of disease to wildlife from livestock quite contradictory to their point of view of wildlife transferring disease to livestock. I wonder if it’s a sheep rancher compared to cattle rancher issue or are there ranchers who run both and have a different opinion based on which animal (sheep or cow) is being discussed? I guess the one commonality is that the ranchers disagree with science. Or at least science that doesn’t agree with them. But then again a lot of people are that way.

  2. Heard Enough Avatar
    Heard Enough

    Just today, in a convoluted agency and legal process, WWP was granted a temporary restraining order that prevents domestic sheep turnout on a winter allotment (Allison-Berg) on the Nez Perce National Forest. This area has had recent bighorn sheep sightings and was the ultimate reason why the Forest Service finally decided to close the allotment- only through next Feb. A small, but important, victory for bighorn sheep.

  3. be Avatar

    yes ~ Winmill:

    Given the precarious nature of the bighorn populations, and the wide-spread agreement among experts that sheep might transmit a deadly disease to bighorns, a substantial risk exists[… …]These circumstances all counsel caution. A cautious approach is particularly appropriate here because the bighorns sighted near the Allison-Berg allotment are a native species. The loss of this herd would create an irreparable injury to the genetic diversity of bighorns.

    the permittee asked Winmill for a stay on FS’s decision to shut down the allotment given the sighting of bighorn demanding that FS prove disease transmission beyond a Science Panel report ~ FS’s position that was, let’s say ‘encouraged along’ by WWP’s litigation…

    another victory for the science and wildlife being the standard, and the willingness to ‘encourage it along’…

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    . . . and good genetics was cited. The advance of this science is becoming so helpful to wildlife biology and wildlife management, not to mention the advances in human genetics.

    So many things we thought were so, are not so; and things we never suspected are important.

    – – – –

    All this aside, this is a great victory for bighorn sheep, and congratulations to attorney Laurie Rule.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan