U Idaho knew bighorn disease link after '94

Conflict of interest results in suppressed study ?

Note: a more robust story than initially has been linked to below

Marie Bulgin is Coordinator of the University of Idaho’s Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center, a prominent research facility that has investigated potential links between domestic sheep disease and bighorn die-offs. At the same time serving as head of the research facility, Dr. Bulgin raised domestic sheep herself, and has served as the President of the Idaho Woolgrower’s Association. Marie Bulgin has long held that there has been no evidence of direct transmission of disease linked to the die-off of bighorn from domestic sheep in the range :

We do know that they do have die-offs periodically and the more recent ones that I’m familiar with have been pneumonia and the pneumonia is a pasteurella caused pneumonia, bacterial, and domestic sheep die of pasteurella pneumonias, but so far in the research we’ve done here, and we’ve done quite a bit of it, we haven’t been able to connect the pasteurella in domestic sheep with that that causes the die-offs in bighorn sheep.

She has testified to this under oath in federal court and to the Idaho legislature and her testimony has been widely used by sheepman, local politicians, and local media (as recently as 2 days ago) to deny the direct link between domestic sheep transmission and muddy the waters concerning bighorn management – and she’s gotten away with it.

Now, a study has emerged, conducted by her own University of Idaho Caine Veterinary Center, by researchers more recently under Dr. Bulgin’s charge. The study demonstrates compelling evidence that transmission of disease between domestic sheep to bighorn sheep does in fact take place in the wild. The research paper was completed in 1994, but for some reason, the study has not shown up until very recently.

U Idaho knew bighorn disease link after ’94Associated Press

Why was this important study held ‘under the radar’ for so long ?




  1. Ken Cole Avatar

    I’ve heard her say these things on numerous occasions. I think it is time that the reality of deadly disease transmission from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep needs to be accepted.

    It is time to remove domestic sheep from the public lands of the west so that bighorn sheep may return to their rightful place on the landscape. There are vast areas of suitable habitat in Nevada that are devoid of bighorn sheep but they are precluded from recovery due to the presence of domestic sheep.

  2. Tilly Avatar

    There are some serious professional responsibility issues raised here. She either had no idea what her own center’s findings were (which seems to indicate poor leadership), or was telling untruths.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Dr. Bulgin is a co-owner of:
    Cergin Livestock Company, Caldwell, Idaho, which produces domestic sheep for sale.
    It would seem that she has a conflict of issue problem as a producer of domestic sheep and as the head of the ressearch center.. She also uses her U of I e-mail address as a way to contact her for her business.
    I found this info on the : Treasure Valley Sheep Producers webpage.

  4. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Larry, she also did a stint as President of the Woolgrowers – the industry lobbying group – and has been head of the research center.

  5. kt Avatar

    Thank you , Larry! I found the same here, too:


    At the end is her U of I e-mail. I don’t know what the phone is – home? U?

    I have saved the Webpage, and e-mailed it to Brian and Ken as well, in case it suddenly gets altered. Isn’t it illegal for Idaho state employees to conduct their private business over a State e-mail Account? Where are the eager Statesman muckrakers on this all? Will the go after a bastion of the livestock industry?

    Remember, this is the lady that told the Legislature there was no documented disease transmission, and the gullible Legislators passed their Bighorn Killing Bill based on this …

  6. kt Avatar

    And one wonders what has been going in Marie Bulgin’s scrapie research – if perhaps some things are being covered up there, too …


    Yes, that’s scrapie as in Mad Sheep Mad Cow scrapie …

  7. Brian Ertz Avatar


    don’t forget – she testified under oath before a federal judge – at least *twice* – to the same tune as well.

  8. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Dr. Bulgin has been using that e-mail on her business site as least since April 2008. I was curious after attending a few meetings of the so-called Governor’s Domestic Sheep/Bighorn Working Group and looked it up.
    There have to be other people working at the Caine research center that helped cover this up besides Dr. Bulgin.
    Who were the people that actually did the research on the dying bighorns and why didn’t they publish? Who was in charge in 1994?

  9. kt Avatar

    There are a lot of questions that need answered here:

    Was any federal money used to fund any research Bulgin has done that may be related to this, or other diseases? How much federal funding does the Caine Center get, and what oversight occurs? What other disease issues are they conveniently forgetting to tell the public about, lying about or covering up? Was any of this known by Otter, Little or the other Idaho politicians that have been providing cover for, and babying, the 15 Woolgrowers in Idaho – to the detriment of everyone else and, sadly, the bighorn herds? How many tens of thousands of dollars in state IDFG, IDAG, Otter staff, etc. and other staff time has been spent in coddling Wooglrower lies? How much of a huge distraction from all the other problems in the state has this sheep cover-up been?

    If this kind of thing happens with domestic sheep – which basically are NOTHING to the Idaho economy – then what in the world is getting covered up about cattle and cattle diseases in this state?

    Woolgrowers are a drain on federal taxpayers who subsidize public lands grazing destruction, fund coyote, badger, wolf and other predator killing by Wildlife Services so that slovenly sheepgrazing practices can continue, as well as pay out wool, hide, meat, you name it subsidies, (I note that even Marie Bulgin’s little private herd gets federal subsidies!).

  10. Brian Ertz Avatar

    why, if Dr. Bulgin wasn’t aware of the study, did no one at the lab inform her that the central claim she was making before Idaho media, the statehouse, and twice before a federal judge, was bogus – that people she was working with at that time had in fact documented evidence of transmission on the range ?

    Thinking about all of this makes me wonder, during that first bighorn working group “collaborative”, we were told that the governor had decided that discussing disease transmission was off the table – Why did they keep insisting on that ground-rule ? what did they know at that time – over a year ago ?

    Why has Idaho’s media not ever questioned the conflict of interest ?

    Why will Rocky Barker’s coverage, set to be published this coming Sunday, attempt to smooth this over and not ask these important question ?

  11. Steve Braun Avatar
    Steve Braun

    Is not a perjury investigation needed in this case? Also, if this person is a member of various professional societies then further sanctions should be considered. Hopefully those of you in Idaho will file the appropriate complaints to trigger the investigations?

  12. Craig Avatar

    It’s amazing to me that the Wild Sheep Federation hasn’t had a word to say in this matter! Being they are for the preservation of North American Willd Sheep. I guess they are more worried about selling high dollar sheep tags before they all die of disease.

  13. CAT Avatar

    Idaho has toothless conflict of interests laws. If we had better then sheepmen in the legislature wouldn’t be writing the bighorn bills. But with her $81,000 yearly salary (2007 for 1/3 time) and the volitility of the bighorn issue you think she could have “made time” before this year to look back in the records.

    Look at page D2 lower right hand column and tell me that the dna analysis has alreay been published.

  14. Ken Cole Avatar

    The Wild Sheep Foundation (not Federation) did attend the working group and was pretty vocal at the last meeting. They were ready to walk out of the meetings if the Sheep bill was passed. The bill was changed but it is still very bad and it is now law.

    I’m more interested about why Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (for “sportsmen” to kill) has been deafeningly silent. Could it be that they are a livestock organization in disguise? That’s what I think.

    It seems their only issue is kill anything that might be perceived to harm elk and deer hunting. They were present at the hearings for bills which change hunting regulations but not for an obvious bill of interest to sportsmen such as the bighorn kill bill.

  15. mikarooni Avatar

    All seriousness aside, this story gets more interesting as you dig deeper. The University of Idaho, almost certainly including the Caine Veterinary Center, accepts some amount of federal funding. Dr. Bulgin clearly has a conflict of interest. If there is evidence that she acted on that conflict of interest to suppress federally funded research that should have been made publicly available since 1994, then this goes far beyond just railing about the trashy nature and behavior of Butch Otter and the rest of the Idaho filth; this is grounds for a fraud and misappropriation of federal funds investigation by the FBI.

  16. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The University of Idaho has a conflict of interest itself. The U of I owns the 3000 mature sheep(6500 after lambing) at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho. Some of these sheep graze free of charge on historical Bighorn sites in the Lemhi and Lost River Mountain Ranges.
    I understand that through some strange accounting method, the sheep are treated as if they are privately owned and the U of I receives federal subsidies for meat and wool on the sheep it produces at the Research Station. (If I am wrong, someone from the U of I please explain how this works and how you came to own the sheep.) I assume the U of I gets to keep the money from the sale of sheep and wool produced there also. Nice arrangement. The U.S. taxpayers pay for operating the sheep station and the U of I gets all the subsidies and profits, and the subsidized, welfare woolgrowers get all the benefits from the research. Kind of like pouring money down a rat hole.

  17. kt Avatar

    Larry: I also wonder what may be going on with private sheep herds and Dubois USDA ARS, etc. /University of Idaho/Caine-Bulgin Cergin. Check this out:


    Who bought what?

  18. Tilly Avatar

    Here is Dr. Bulgin’s subsidy record on the EWG subsidy database:


    Total of $4,289. She stopped taking them in 2001.

  19. CAT Avatar

    kt, not sure if this is what you were looking at but that page, selected for 2006 so you can see the complete detail shows $7500 paid for “SHEEP EYES FOR RESEARCH”. Can’t tell how many sheep (not for food) were required.

  20. CAT Avatar

    Tilly, you’ll get better records by looking at the company itself which didn’t stop getting subsidies.


  21. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    You might check subsidies paid to Cergin Livestock(Bulgin is a co-owner). Many farmers don’t want the public to know they are receiving subsidies and hide their names by receiving the subsidies as a corporation or llc.

  22. kt Avatar

    Before they take it down:
    …straight from the horses mouth …


    No dots connected. University of Idaho lying for ranchers is alive and well ..

  23. kt Avatar

    Gee, Ken – That there Farm Bureau site must be where the Idaho Statesman gets the bulk of its information … Spoonfed ag industry propaganda, then the “news” reporting regurgitates the propaganda like Bulgin’s false claims, no questions asked.

    Part of the shame of this all is that even a smidgeon of investigative reporting would have broken this all wide open years ago. But no. That would be work. So WHO finally fed the info to the AP? Jon and Brian.

  24. kt Avatar

    We have to keep in mind, too, that part of what the Woolgrowers and Bulgin have been up to is simply sowing confusion to buy time. What they want is big federal funding bucks to work on a vaccine for WILD SHEEP.

    But in the meantime, they want to continue to ravage the public lands and run their stinking disease-infested domestic sheep just like they always have.

    Bulgin had to know full well, and yet misled everyone. She has ZERO credibility as a scientist denying diseases – yet in ignorant Idaho – where the news media that is enamored with ranchers lets such fabrications go unchallenged – this was encouraged.

    But back to the vaccine business. How, one wonders, will WILD sheep have a vaccine administered to them – Well, they will of course have to be captured, man-handled, etc. Making them less wild, more like farm animals. DISGUSTING.

    Ken may recall just how much the Woolgrowers want from US taxpayers – the 15 Idaho sheepmen just need to get off the publlc lands and public dole, period.

    The U of I should not get another dime in federal $$$ after this fiasco.

  25. Eric T. Avatar
    Eric T.

    Well, I don’t know what the we’re suppose to take out of the Angry Man link. He pretty much nailed how WWP got started.

  26. JB Avatar

    “I’m not against bighorn sheep, I’m just for agriculture.”

    Read: I’m not against bighorn sheep, so long as they don’t cause problems for agriculture, which in this case they clearly do.

  27. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Eric T.,

    Lake Creek is how WWP got started.

    The fence dispute is true, it motivated a closer look, & actually, I’ve got my own dispute in southern Arizona where the Open Range livestock keep finding their way into my greener pasture (boy, those weak spots in the fence sure look like clean cuts) but buying into the suggestion that it’s just a personal vendeta has been Livestock’s way of trying diminish their culpability on the landscape – check out the Lake Creek link above & decide for yourself.

  28. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    I’m not against bighorn sheep, so long as they don’t cause problems for agriculture, which in this case they clearly do.

    That is exactly what statements like that mean. Bighorn sheep are hardly controversial with most people and people need to justify themselves like that.

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