Sheepman/elk farmer Siddoway's bill to kill bighorn in domestic sheep areas advances

Bill passes key State Senate committee 7-2-

The bighorn is in big trouble in Idaho with the population dropping from 6,500 in 1990 to about 3,500 today. One full curl bighorn ram can be worth as much as an entire band of sheep.

Bill would prohibit bighorns in sheep grazing areas. AP

In an April 4 article in the Lewiston Tribune (subscription only)reporters Bill Spence And Eric Barker wrote that Hells Canyon on the Idaho/Oregon/Washington border once had about 10,000 bighorn, but it has dwindled to just 875 today.

Almost all biologists believe that the presence of domestic sheep near bighorn results in lethal pneumonia for the bighorn. A number of courts cases in Idaho federal courts the last several years favoring bighorn has caused a furious reaction among sheep operators.

I find it amazing that wolves get so much attention when it is bighorn in danger, not elk, although elk farms are a likely danger to elk due to the advancing front of chronic wasting disease and other pathogens.
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Note that yesterday, Siddoway abstained from voting on the bill.



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  1. jdubya Avatar

    Lung worms? I though it was beta-hemolytic P. haemolytica.

    Immunization is certainly one way to go but it won’t be practical with any kind of large and dispersed populations of bighorns. Better to restrict contact with domestic sheep.

  2. Brian Ertz Avatar

    These guys are crooks. Passage of this bill will only make it that more important that federal public land managers restrict domestic sheep use of lands to mitigate likelihood of threats to bighorn – whether those threats are disease, or the state of Idaho.

    They’re shooting themselves in the foot on this one.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Who else is on this Natural Resources Committee?
    It should be illegal for Siddoway to sponsor this bill. He has an obvious conflict of interest. The woolgrowers come to the Idaho bighorn/domestic sheep working group (of which I am a member) saying they want to work out conflicts between bighorn sheep advocates and themselves and then sneak this bill in the back door. I will not trust any of them again. Ban domestic sheep from our public lands.

  4. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    The Idaho legislature has outdone itself in stupidity with this bill. Killing a magnificent, wild animal that has lived in the Rocky Mountains for eons for the benefit of a handful of heavily subsidized domestic sheep ranchers. This has to be the most backwards policy imaginable in the 21st century, both economically and socially.

    What amazes me, though, is the apparent lack of outcry from hunting groups.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Count the ranchers/farmers. I think they are all but one of the Republicans.

    Here are the Republicans
    Chair Gary J. Schroeder
    Vice Chair Steve Bair
    Dean L. Cameron
    Monty J. Pearce
    Charles H. Coiner
    Jeff C. Siddoway
    Bert Brackett

    The two Democrats
    Clint Stennett*
    Elliot Werk

    *Stennett currently has a replacement due to illness

  6. Ken Cole Avatar

    Stennett’s replacement is Senator Jon Thorson.

  7. Ken Cole Avatar

    Also, Siddoway, even though he is a sponsor of the legislation, abstained from voting on this in the committee because of his conflict of interest.

  8. kt Avatar

    Yeah! Senator Bert Brackett hating bighorns. Now here is a Master of the Universe at getting the public to give him and his cows more Welfare. Next year, watch for a similar Bill about sage-grouse to “protect” Brackett welfare ranching. And one about canned elk hunting to protect the Siddoway canned elk operation. There is an Attorney General’s report (a second one) you might want to post. It is about what “hold harmless” may mean – including “indemnify – which may mean requiring the state to pay the welfare woolgorwer’s – you know – like the very wealthy Soulen sheep clan, Shirts and others.

    These Idaho Legislators are welfare scam artists of the highest degree. They will do any and all things they to get federal or state tax dollars paid to them to support their earth-destroying livestock.

    Here is a minimal info Statesman story:

  9. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Debra and Larry, I agree with what you said. This is a backwards policy and that livestock grazing should not be allowed on public lands.

  10. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Where is FNAWS? They have been so silent this last year in the Bighorn/Domestic Sheep working group, that I wondered if someone was blackmailing them. At one time they were buying out domestic sheep grazing permits and promoting more sites to plant bighorns. They should have enough political power to stop this in its tracks.

  11. Brian Ertz Avatar

    FNAWS won’t ever stand in the way of Livestock. A lot of the wild sheep groups know very well what’s going on – but have a tendency to look the other way when it comes time to speak up or get real about the threat of domestic sheep.

    It seems like with a lot of these groups it’s all about dropping/transplanting wild sheep more than securing habitat in conflict with other users (domestic sheepmen) – even if it means dropping them into disease.

  12. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    I heard from a FNAWS source that they quit doing buyouts because groups like WWP have become so “effective.”

    This left me scratching my head, as WWP and similar advocacy groups have miniscule funding and no political power compared to big pro-hunting groups. Everyone who cares about wildlife, whether to watch or hunt, needs to fight for it, and not sit on the sidelines as FNAWS appears to be doing.

  13. Ken Cole Avatar

    I attended the hearing Friday and one of the biggest things left out of the article was the discussion of the National Forests Management Act (NFMA) and how it supersedes any law that the state could pass.

    On March 31st the Idaho Deputy Attorney-General, Steve Strack, wrote an informal opinion on the bill. You can read it here: Attorney General Letter 3.31.09.pdf

    At the beginning of the hearing people were surprised to see that there had been an amendment proposed. It was handed out to each of the attendees. You can read it and the bill SB1175+ammendment.pdf.

    There was a lot of talk about how wonderful collaboration was and private property rights.

    Ron Shirts (the sheep rancher) testified first and said that the agreement he made back in 1997 was not being lived up to, he also complained about how wolves were really hurting him and said that he had a family and a baby on the way.

    John Robison (from Idaho Conservation League) testified next and asked that the bill be withdrawn so that the collaborative process could come up with solutions. He was asked by Senator Steve Bair (R-Blackfoot) if there was any proof that disease from domestic sheep was what was killing the bighorn and he pointed to the Payette Forest’s plan saying that they had apparently come to consensus that it does. Other questions were asked of him and Siddoway read from a letter from the former Wallawa Whitman Forest official who signed the 1997 agreement which said that he was representing the Nez Perce and Payette Forests as well because W-W managed Hell’s Canyon NRA.

    Next were several FNAWS people including Lloyd Oldenburg who said that the agreement was not valid because the Chief of the Forest Service never signed the agreement and that the FNAWS representative was not given the authority to sign the agreement in the first place because the board had not given them such authority.

    Marie Bulgin then took the stand representing the woolgrowers saying that there was no evidence that domestic sheep were the cause of the bighorn die-offs and saying that the diseases killing BHS have not been found in DS. She went on to say that the BHS are dying from diseases that they already have and that DS were not the cause of the die-offs. This brings up the obvious question: why then kill BHS if this isn’t a problem? She mentioned a study in which Dr. Srikumaran had marked a bacteria thought to be responsible and gave it to DS, then BHS were placed in varying proximities to the DS and tested to see if the disease had been transmitted to them. The disease had been transmitted and some of them had actually died from it.

    Here is a description of the study from the Lewiston Morning Tribune:

    Subramaniam Srikumaran, a professor at Washington State University who goes by Dr. Shri, recently completed a study where he took a pathogen from four domestic sheep and tagged it with a genetic marker. He then reintroduced the tagged germ to the domestic sheep. Over the course of months he gradually mixed the four domestic sheep with four tame bighorns.

    When the two species were kept about 50 feet apart from each other, the wild sheep remained healthy. After the sheep were separated only by a chain-link fence, two of the wild sheep picked up the tagged pathogen and one of them developed pneumonia. Next, the animals were all put in the same pen, and the bighorns started dying of pneumonia. Tests showed the disease developed from the same pathogen that he tagged and grew in the domestic sheep.

    Alan Schroeder, who was representing the Shirts brothers, was next and said that if the “argeement” was not valid then it is further reason that the bill should be passed to protect sheep ranchers.

    Stan Boyd testified saying that he supports the bill and held up stating this-and-that as reason for supporting the bill.

    Finally, Sharon Keifer from IDFG testified that the IDFG does not support the bill as originally written. They had not seen the amendment before the hearing so did not have any comment about it. She said that IDFG already had a policy in place to kill bighorn sheep when they come into proximity with goats and domestic sheep and that this bill takes away any flexibility they have.

    Senator Elliot Werk asked several pertinent questions about how NFMA supersedes any law that they passed and stated that he thought passing this legislation would dig them further into a hole and not solve any problems.

    Senators Siddoway, Pearce, Bair and Cameron seemed to think private property rights were at stake and that their job was to protect people above any other interest. They lectured Robison about this and I was disappointed that Robison didn’t correct their assertions that this was about private property rights. It was about public lands and resources.

    Only Senator Werk and Senator Thorson voted against sending the legislation to the next level. Senator Siddoway abstained from voting because of the conflict of interest. All the rest voted yes.

  14. jdubya Avatar

    Subramaniam Srikumaran, a professor at Washington State University who goes by Dr. Shri, recently completed a study…..Veterinary Microbiology
    Volume 133, Issue 4, 2 February 2009, Pages 366-371

    Mannheimia haemolytica causes pneumonia in both bighorn sheep (BHS, Ovis canadensis) and domestic sheep (DS, Ovis aries). Under experimental conditions, co-pasturing of BHS and DS results in fatal pneumonia in BHS. It is conceivable that certain serotypes of M. haemolytica carried by DS are non-pathogenic to them, but lethal for BHS. M. haemolytica serotypes A1 and A2 are carried by DS in the nasopharynx. However, it is the serotype A2 that predominantly causes pneumonia in DS. The objectives of this study were to determine whether serotype A1 exhibits differential pathogenicity to BHS and DS, and to determine whether leukotoxin (Lkt) secreted by this organism is its primary virulence factor. Three groups each of BHS and DS were intra-tracheally administered either 1 × 109 cfu of serotype A1 wild-type (lktA-Wt group), Lkt-deletion mutant of serotype A1-(lktA-Mt group), or saline (control group), respectively. In the lktA-Wt groups, all four BHS died within 48 h while none of the DS died during the 2-week study period. In the lktA-Mt groups, none of the BHS or DS died. In the control groups, one DS died due to an unrelated cause. Necropsy and histopathological findings revealed that death of BHS in the lktA-Wt group was due to bilateral, fibrinohemorrhagic pneumonia. Although the A1-Mt-inoculated BHS were clinically normal, on necropsy, lungs of two BHS showed varying degrees of mild chronic pneumonia. These results indicate that M. haemolytica serotype A1 is non-pathogenic to DS, but highly lethal to BHS, and that Lkt is the primary virulence factor of M. haemolytica.

  15. jdubya Avatar

    Oh, and this as well. I was getting confused….bad thing this early in the morning.

    Mannheimia haemolytica to replace Pasteurella haemolytica

    Genetic analysis of Pasteurella organisms has resulted in a new classification for several strains of the organism commonly involved in respiratory tract disease in cattle. Mannheimia haemolytica (formerly Pasteurella haemolytica) is the new taxonomic classification, as suggested on the basis of results from a study published in 1999 (Angen O, Mutters R, Caugant DA, et al. Int J Syst Bacteriol 1999;49:67-86).

    According to Kim Alan Brogden, PhD, of the USDA-ARS National Animal Disease Center, historically, two biotypes have been recognized for the taxon Pasteurella haemolytica: biotype A isolates that ferment l-arabinose, and biotype T isolates that ferment trehalose. The trehalose-positive isolates were found to represent a distinct species (P trehalosi, which currently contains serovars 3, 4, 10, and 15). The trehalose-negative organisms were found to represent a distinct genus (Mannheimia) with five species (M glucosida, M granulomatis, M haemolytica, M ruminalis, and M varigena). The trehalose-negative organisms are now classified as M haemolytica and contain serovars 1, 2, 5-9, 12-14, 16, and 17. The trehalose-negative organisms of P haemolytica serovar 11 are now M glucosida.

    These new classifications should assist researchers, clinicians, and pathologists as they attempt to corral the organism and elucidate its role in the bovine respiratory disease complex

  16. kt Avatar

    The biggest assist Idaho needs right now is for its Caine Vet lab “scientists” to quit claiming domestic sheep are not responsible for bighorn die-offs. This is shameless cheerleading for rancher myths. It is dangerous to have the state supporting these folks as they – essentially – play with microbes while not believing in disease.

    I wonder if the CDC tracks wacko scientists involved with microbe research? In this case, an Intevention needs to happen.

  17. jimbob Avatar

    I agree with Brian Ertz on this and will take it one step further: I think most of these Groups like FNAWS or RMEF tend to stay away from this type of political discourse, probably because a majority of their membership are Republican. Seems like they view these types of disputes between rancher/farmers and public land advocates as political, not scientific, which is a shame. It seems like Brian is right—they just transplant or buy habitat. They don’t want to piss anybody off.

  18. kt Avatar

    jimbob – All kinds of risks when dealing with diseases, it would seem to me. Transmission between domestic and wild animals of various sorts ESPECIALLY in these state level operations. AND yes, transmission to humans.

    The danger is increased when you have the people actually handling the pneumonia organisms not believing in transmission. People walking in and out, picking things up on their shoes, all kinds of things.

    Here is a snapshot of how things were at the Caine Vet lab a decade ago. I saw it first hand: A snurfling sick bighorn or 2 outside. A couple of domestic sheep in a pen. A dead bighorn in the cooler dripping blood on the floor (where all kinds of other things were stored). All kinds of people coming and going – including to do things like store bare root plants. Now, things may be a bit different today, but I betcha there are still serious problems. ESPECIALLY when researchers are wedded unquestionably to supporting livestock industry myths over what all reputable scientists across the country believe and find.

  19. Craig Avatar

    jimbob Says:
    April 8, 2009 at 11:25 AM
    I agree with Brian Ertz on this and will take it one step further: I think most of these Groups like FNAWS or RMEF tend to stay away from this type of political discourse, probably because a majority of their membership are Republican. Seems like they view these types of disputes between rancher/farmers and public land advocates as political, not scientific, which is a shame. It seems like Brian is right—they just transplant or buy habitat. They don’t want to piss anybody off.

    I don’t think it’s just because they are “Republican” I think they use there money wisley to aquire land that is benifical to all species instead of wasting it in court battles! The RMEF has done a hell of lot more good things for wildlife than bad! Getting involved in these type issues is just going to deplete them of donated funds and not help anything!

  20. Brian Ertz Avatar


    Can you tell me how valuable – in dollars and cents – to wildlife the lawful application, or prevention of its failed application, of environmental law is to wildlife & habitat across hundreds of millions of acres of land that We already own (public land)?

    Now Craig – can you tell me how much money it costs to file a lawsuit – say, the wolf suit, or better yet, the Greater Sage grouse ESA suit – a suit that if actualized as WWP would have it, will lead to the improvement of wildlife habitat across tens, if not a hundred million acres of public lands that already belong to us. How much do those suits cost Craig ?

    Let’s keep it even more relevant to wild sheep than that – how much money would it cost to buy, outright buy, equivalent private land as is the habitat of domestic sheep allotments on the Payette that are currently being proposed for closure to domestic sheep grazing as a result of succesful litigation. Then, tell us how much that litigation costed those groups – dollar for dollar, which approach do you suppose would leverage more conservation benefit for wild sheep ?

    When you can tell us how much these suits cost – any one of them – then make the statement that private acquisition is a better value to wildlife than the spine to stand up and insist on public land conservation ~ or you may think twice about what you’ve already said :

    they use there money wisley to aquire land that is benifical to all species instead of wasting it in court battles!

    The truth is, FNAWS & other wild sheep groups, in all likelihood wouldn’t have to pony up a dime if they wanted to join the suits – just the courage to do what’s right, I’m guessing that’s all they’d have to find. The same goes for other big-game groups that shake in their boots at the thought of uttering the truth about what public lands ranching does to big-game habitat across vast landscapes. In fact, a lot of times its the bird hunting (and occassionally watching) groups that’ve got more courage in that regard.

    It’s sorta funny – as macho as big-game hunting groups pretend to be, when you go to a working group where there’s conflict between big-game and Livestock – it’s the wildlife watchers and the (willing) conservationists that are the ones who have the balls to step up and confront the reality publicly, even take it to court. SFW, FNAWS, & others are happy as hell to talk about big-game habitat degradation via Livestock while munching cookies and sipping water in the halls at break, but when the hearing/meeting commences again, more often than not they put their tails between their legs and take to their corner. This is a generality – there are exceptions, but they’re individuals, not the groups.

  21. Craig Avatar

    How many Acres of land has the pro-wolf groups procured compared to the RMEF?

  22. Brian Ertz Avatar


    how many acres do wolves occupy ? That’s how many they’ve pushed toward re-wilding.

    Now answer my question – how much does a lawsuit cost ?

  23. Craig Avatar

    I’ll agree both go hand in hand to help, but one group does it there way and the other their way. Jimbob makes it sound like like the RMEF doesn’t do anything! Give credit where credit is due.

  24. Brian Ertz Avatar

    i’ll agree that RMEF and other big-game conservation groups help a bit by acquiring private land (which can have conservation benefit to a diversity of species, or not, depending on what’s done with/to the land) – if you agree that they’re spineless on Livestock issues if they see big-game habitat on public land being denuded by Livestock but say or do nothing. Agreed ?

  25. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The RMEF buys wolf habitat — land which is good elk habitat.

    If I was given millions of dollars to buy “land for “wolves” I don’t what I’d do with it except buy or improve land that has deer and elk.

    If you like elk, you don’t have to like wolves; but if you like wolves, you have to love elk.

  26. Craig Avatar

    I don’t know exactly what a law suit costs, but it isn’t cheap! You tell me exactly what it costs since you are the expert? Did I say I knew exactly what it cost? No I sure as hell didn’t! I just said that the RMEF uses there money to buy land wich helps a lot more than Elk!

  27. Craig Avatar

    They have bought up land that Livestock has devastated and done stream restoration projects and much more! Do you ever read what lands they aquire and do with said aqusitions?

  28. jimbob Avatar

    Craig, I was making the point about these group’s lack of political “balls” so to speak—not that they don’t do anything valuable. I’ve considered joining RMEF many times—I just don’t like their stance on predators (and their lack of political will to speak out). Also, I wouldn’t expect RMEF to speak out on this issue since it involves bighorn, not elk—although I think most people would see how they would benefit by speaking up here. Which species will be next to lose out to agribusiness?


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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