Rocky Barker: Bighorn-domestic sheep conflict could blow up soon in Idaho

Barker has an amazing story this morning . . . the “Cassia County Board of Commissioners voted to ask [Butch] Otter to relocate bighorn sheep from the South Hills near Twin Falls because of conflicts with domestic sheep.” Of course, Otter can’t legally order this. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission can. They are supposed to be independent, and once truly were. We shall see.

The bighorn herd which is near Big Cottonwood Creek lives close to the domestic sheep allotments of several powerful sheep growers.

I wonder if the County Commissioners asked local wildlife enthusiasts if they wanted this rare herd removed, or did the sheep-men storm into the Commissioner’s meeting and demand the resolution from their compliant servants?



  1. ghost grizzly Avatar
    ghost grizzly

    Hello….are there any Idaho Hunters out there who have the nadders to organize and fight this fight???

    Is there an Idaho Wildlife Federation or an Idaho Hunters Association??

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    What this string of stories indicates is a profound weakness of the livestock industry, its sheer arrogance and greed, that can be exploited if only conservationists would get off their consensus and collaboration bandwagon and go after the cowboys and sheepboys full speed ahead, damn the torpedos.

    There is a tremendous grass roots opportunity here to show the public, especially hunters, the true character of the livestock industry and that it’s time to take it down.

    I suggest a public trust/initiative approach.

    We can count on the WWP to do the right thing, but what of the other groups in Idaho?

  3. Don Riley Avatar
    Don Riley

    Does anyone know the position of “Sportsmen” for Fish & Wildlife.?

  4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    In Wyoming, SFW has yet to take a position contrary to the desires of the livestock industry on any issue. It’ll be interesting to see what SFW-ID does with this.

  5. Brian Ertz Avatar

    SFW did not make an oral statement or suggestion at the meeting.

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    There might be some benefit to pushing SFW to take some kind of stand on this. After all, supposedly SFW is all for bighorn sheep conservation, being a “hunting” group and bighorns being the premier big game species in North America.

    My guess is that SFW, if pushed, will track along with the whimpy stance taken by IDFG, which is to track along with what the Woolgrowers want to the greatest extent possible without hurting bighorns too much. Pretty much the same approach IDFG is taking with wolves.

    Now is the time to remind IDFG that state ownership of wildlife means the public trust, where wildlife are managed for the people of the state in the public interest, not for the benefit of private economic interests. This would make an interesting lawsuit against the state if it starts restricting bighorn habitat for the benefit of domestic sheep.

  7. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i’ve been thinking about this. for SFW to be up in arms about wolves allegedly conflicting with big game numbers but passive about the overwhelming scientific acknowledgement that domestic sheep significantly affect bighorn numbers – to their detriment, it would seem to me that SFW ought be pretty hardline. i sure wouldn’t want to be in this pickle. the big game hunters i’ve spoken to certainly don’t have any strong affinity to “range maggots”

  8. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    They don’t have much affinity for cattle either, but it’s hard to get them to admit it in public. Quite frankly, there could be much benefit to wildlife conservation if the Woolgrowers continue along this path. A blowback would be great to watch.

  9. ghost grizzly Avatar
    ghost grizzly

    Where is FNAS??

  10. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep is headquartered in Cody, Wyoming. It is a conservative hunting organization. It has done some very good habitat and wild sheep restoration work throughout the West, but it tends to be dominated by outfitters, wealthy hunters, and large landowners.

    Don Peay, who started SFW in Utah, is on the board.

    It is currently involved in a very expensive lawsuit with a rival sheep hunting organization over the use of various hunting award trademarks.

    I expect that FNAWS will work behind the scenes to protect wild sheep and wild sheep habitat to the greatest extent possible, but will not publicly take a strong stand against the Woolgrowers.


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