Letter: UI prof's daughter documented disease link

Dr. Marie Bulgin’s daughter was involved with the unpublished study of the 1994 incidents.

This bighorn sheep was seen persistently coughing.  © Ken Cole
This bighorn sheep was seen persistently coughing. © Ken Cole

“Dr. Bulgin distorts the scientific facts to support her one-sided views as an advocate of the domestic sheep industry,” wrote William Foreyt, a Washington State University professor, in a May 5 letter to the Idaho Senate, which this year passed legislation aimed at helping ranchers.

Letter: UI prof’s daughter documented disease link
John Miller, Associated Press
(Be sure to click at the bottom for the second page)

Meanwhile, over at the Lewiston Morning Tribune which requires a subscription to read, Dr. Bulgin compares scientist’s feelings about disease transmission between the two species with the public’s fear of autism being caused by vaccinations which has been debunked but people still believe.



, ,



  1. Indamani Avatar

    Dr. Marie Bulgin should resign. She has lost all credibility among her peers and she’s a disgrace to the University of Idaho. She lacks integrity and has very little conscience. She’s responsible for the deaths of many bighorns.

  2. kt Avatar

    Ken: Can you Post the exact Bulgin spin quote about autism from the Lewiston Morning Tribune? Sounds like the livestock industry is desperately trying to throw out more confusion and smokescreens.

    Indamani: ALL the U of I/Caine center has been doing especially in recent years needs to come under scrutiny. Bulgin has been messing around with prions, too.

    Idaho’s politicians (Crapo) are likely to try to throw millions of tax payer dollars at more “research” – for a vaccine that will require wild sheep to be caught and vaccinated and treated like farm animals. Money that would be much better spent on a myriad of other things in this country. WHEN are the politicians going quit coddling this tiny and destructive clique of lying leeches on society and the public lands?

  3. Glenn Hockett Avatar

    We appreciate all this news from Idaho exposing the myth. The Gallatin Wildlife Association has recently appealed the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Plan Revision over this very conflict between domestic sheep and native bighorn sheep. Domestic sheep preclude bighorn sheep over a vast landscape of largely public lands in southwest Montana in particular in the Gravelly Mountain Range running down to Antelope Basin and the Centennial Valley and over to our Robb-Ledford and Blacktail Wildlife Management Areas to the west.

  4. Ken Cole Avatar

    Dr. Marie Bulgin quoted from the Lewiston Morning Tribune

    “It’s kind of like autism. For a long time they thought childhood vaccinations caused autism, so a lot of people haven’t gotten their kids vaccinated. What has been shown in the last few years, no it isn’t vaccination that causes autism,” she said. “A lot of people believe it just as sincerely as the bighorn biologists believe domestics are responsible for the demise of bighorns, but they have been able to show with time and many different studies in different countries that it isn’t so. Something that is coincidental isn’t proof.”

  5. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    That quote doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Talk about a political runaround. She puts some of my university professors to shame.

  6. Brian Ertz Avatar

    I think a broader inquiry into the incestuous relationship between land grant universities & public land-use industry is in order.

    This Bulgin fiasco isn’t just about a single personality – she’s been allowed to make false claims in a context of a “captured” academic institutional atmosphere that should have otherwise checked the false claims far sooner than ended up being the case here.

    If the allegations are true, which – let’s be honest, probably are, then Marie deserves to be made an example of. But it ought not be allowed to end with her being the fall-gal ~ Scientists in agency & academics alike ought be allowed to conduct scientific inquiry in an cleaner atmosphere, there ought be more robust protections for staff all the way up & down the chain of command that liberate them from the existing pressures to run with the grain of land-use industries.

    How can we broaden this fiasco into a deeper consideration for emboldening the integrity of the source of the science that directs public land use and wildlife management ?

    there’s a larger industry apologetic shadow that hangs over these land grants

  7. kt Avatar

    It’s clear Marie Bulgin is lost in myth.

    She is unfit to be around animals, animal drugs or disease organisms.

    Following on her autism analogy (which makes no sense), here’s one for her: In the Marie Bulgin/U of I school of ream of disease understanding: You shouldn’t worry about rabies if you are bitten by a bat. You might, though, end up dying of a nightmare about the incident – but rabies will just have nothing to do with your demise.

    BUT Brian is right. There are a whole lot of others at the U of I that lie for livestock – and have been doing this with impunity to date. In fact, I think showing your subservience to Industry is the way you get tenure there. Any research done must be structured so as to never really find out anything that shows livestock ever cause any problems ot grouse, pygmy rabbits, or rare plants. What a joke!

    Kind of like their Range Department slickspot peppergrass trampling study. I understand the results were not what the ranchers wanted, so that study, too, has been buried never to see the light of day.

  8. otto Avatar

    Oh yeah the famous slickspot peppergrass. That case, well really the several cases, is making its way into law school textbooks and lectures as the prime example of politics over science and federal judges rebuking agencies repeatedly.

  9. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Can somebody explain the slickspot peppergrass trampling study?

  10. kt Avatar

    Otto: Ah, the slickspot saga – and the program of purposeful livestock industry extinction of slickspot by cattle and sheep that is being carried out there, too. The sad thing is, there are really only 3 main grazing allotments in all of the Jarbidge slickspot country — in toto (just realized that is kind of a scramble of otto, not an anagram – but is there a word for turning otto into toto?). Anyway – those allotmnets are grazed by Senator Bert Brackett or his relative.

    Then, the slickspot country north of the Snake River – nearly all are welfare-ranched by members of the very wealthy ID Repub aristocracy. AND at least TWO allotments are grazed – and slickspot peppergrass habitat is being converted to weedlands – by two of the very same ranchers whose sheep are implicated in the Hells Canyon bighorn die-off situation! The big Sunnyside allotment in the Birds of Prey Area, and the Boise Foothills is the old Little (as in Lieutenant Gov. Little doemstic sheep permit) sold to another of the Hells Canyon domestic sheep grazers.

    Is anybody starting to get the sick feeling that there are really very few public lands ranchers in Idaho, yet the path of devastation – and the Hoofprint of their livestock operations on public lands and the natural world is immense?

  11. bob Jackson Avatar
    bob Jackson

    I am always searching written and oral history to get unblemished assessments of the land, animals and environment. when there is a quote I take stock more than auther interpretation. Don’t know if you and the others working against range abuse have this quote from the NE Sonora country Opata indians1681 …as quoted out of spanish court documents as part of the reasons why they revolted against Spanish settlement, “Spanish livestock have dried up all the springs and ruined the land.” (Radding Wandering Peoples).

  12. Glenn Hockett Avatar


    You make a very good point about the land grant Universities. One of my old Range Professors at Montana State University basically serves at the pleasure of the Montana Stockgrowers and the MSU Red Bluff Experiment Station is a domestic sheep ranch that overlaps unoccupied bighorn sheep habitat near the Madison River. There is a lot of time and resources wasted in my opinion justifying the status quo. Unbiased science would be a nice change of pace.

  13. Glenn Hockett Avatar

    The domestic sheep conflict with bighorns has hit the front page of the Bozeman Chronicle today:

  14. Layton Avatar

    I just GOTTA put my $0.02 in here!!

    Folks on this blog are SUPER ready to challenge ANYONE that disagrees with them by saying “where is your scientific study — where and by whom was it peer reviewed?” or some other words referring to a study being peer reviewed AND PUBLISHED!!

    Now it appears that there is an UNPUBLISHED and (I assume) NOT PEER REVIEWED study that was done at the U of I extention — BUT (and again, I assume) since it AGREES with the popular theory here on the blog ie: domestic sheep transmit disease to bighorns — it’s accepted 100% !!!!

    Isn’t that some sort of a double standard?? 8)

  15. Glenn Hockett Avatar


    There are plenty of peer reviewed papers that point out the conflict between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep. George et al (2008) is just one example, but there are many. That is the whole point. There has been lots of peer reviewed science pointing out the conflict between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep, but very little if any that indicates this is not a significant problem.

  16. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Marie did not testify that there were no peer reviewed papers demonstrating transmission in the wild — she testified that she knew of NO EVIDENCE of transmission in the wild. that fact is belied by her own lab and by her own daughter’s work 15 years ago. that’s the kicker on this one.

    the paper is under peer review right now. Glenn is right, there are plenty of papers demonstrating transmission that are peer reviewed –

  17. Jay Avatar

    Kind of like your field observations being correct and accurate, but others (e.g., Bob J.) aren’t, Layton?

  18. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    There seems to be almost unanimity among scientists that sheep pass pneumonia onto bighorn.

    The big holdout was Marie Bulgin. Of course, that’s all the woolgrowers and the legislature needed — “see, we have the head of a research center who says the cause and effect has been proven.”

    Now it is shown that somehow she didn’t seem to know about the critical study even though it was from her research center and about the very matter she has been talking and testifying about.

  19. mikarooni Avatar

    Many of the comments here are touching on the real problem and, as one poster put it, it “isn’t just about a single personality” and it’s not just about disease transmission from domestic to wild sheep. Another poster called Bulgin “a disgrace to the University of Idaho” and noted that she “should resign.” All of that is quite close to true; but, other posters are on to the real situation. Bulgin actually should not resign; she should be fired. You can’t really say that she is “a disgrace to the University of Idaho” because the real disgrace is that, after all that has already been revealed about this disgustingly corrupt situation, the University of Idaho has still not fired her and that is the real disgrace, not Bulgin’s childish and corrupt refusal to do the right thing. We already know that Bulgin is corrupt; that’s apparent on the face of it. The real disgrace is that University of Idaho has done nothing. Tenure or no tenure, this is a situation involving a full fraudulent breach of ethics and has the university even bothered to open an investigation, even an investigation designed to be a whitewash?

    …and the real disgrace does not end there. The University of Idaho is ultimately an arm of the State of Idaho and the State of Idaho answers to the voting citizens of Idaho. Has the State of Idaho called for any action in this matter? Has Idaho’s vaunted and honorable cowboy governor spoken? Are the voting citizens of Idaho up in arms? Are they holding the governor and the legislature accountable for, not only not calling on the university to take action, but for actually using this disinformation as the basis for horrifically bad legislation? Was the governor and perhaps the legislature as well in on Bulgin’s scheme? Is that why nobody is taking any action against her; does she effectively have “pictures” to use against them if they do?

    One or two of the posters have raised the issue of the corruption that is rampant in land grant universities across the entire West and that is a valid point; however, if there is no hope of getting any corrective action in a case so blatant and disgusting as this one, then talking about the wider corruption problem at all the other land grant schools is just idle conversation. If this isn’t a slam dunk, then the corruption is truly invulnerable.

  20. Ken Cole Avatar

    One thing I would like to know more about is what people like Siddoway are doing behind the scenes. I find it interesting that it took a full 2 weeks for the information about the bighorn interaction near Riggins to come out. That’s a big deal and it seems that something like that would come out very quickly if there weren’t people who might want it suppressed.

    Brian, didn’t WWP submit an information request to IDFG asking how many times they killed BHS after interactions with domestic goats and sheep?


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole