Disease reported in Nevada's bighorn sheep

Bighorn Sheep in the East Humboldt and Ruby Ranges are showing signs on pneumonia

Bighorn Sheep Lamb © Ken Cole

This is very bad but expected news. Both the BLM and the US Forest Service authorize domestic sheep grazing in areas near these bighorn populations. While there has been no mention of any interaction between domestic livestock and bighorn sheep there have been goats used to control weed in the Clover Valley just east of the East Humboldts.

In 1997 there was a die-off of both bighorn sheep and mountain goats in the Ruby Mountains where a large percentage of the animals were lost.

It bugs me that both the USFS and BLM are waiting on the Payette Forest to determine what they are going to do about sheep grazing in bighorn sheep habitat before they develop a policy to address this issue in other areas. The science is clear and the need for a strong policy is obvious. Why are they waiting?

Disease reported in Nevada’s bighorn sheep
Reno Gazette Journal

Bighorn sheep monitored for disease in NV
Associated Press in the Las Vegas Sun

Nevada Department of Wildlife Press Release



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The number of bighorn sheep dieoffs that are taking place due to disease from domestic sheep is just amazing (in a very sad way)!

  2. Carl Avatar


    When the agencies are doing the NEPA for these alotments, do you know if they are addressing the issue of disease transmission? If not they need to be. If they are, it would be interesting to see how they are discussing the impacts. Sounds like it would be hard for them to dismiss them as neglible. Just curious.

  3. Ken Cole Avatar

    This document is the 2009 annual operating instructions for the sheep grazing done in the Ruby Mountains.

    It shows that the sheep are allowed to enter into OCCUPIED bighorn habitat and describes the route they take. The sheep are trailed from the south. “Then they trail across Harrison Pass and graze Green Mountain and then down McCutcheon Creek where the lambs will be removed for shipping.”

    McCutcheon Creek is just 10-11 miles from Lamoille Canyon but well within occupied BHS habitat.

    PERMITTEE: Pete and Rama Paris Family Trust
    PERMIT #: 70205
    ALLOTMENT: Corta S&G, Belmont C&H and Home Place C&H


    At the same time as NDOW is asking people to avoid entering Lamoille Canyon, a Google search for “Lamoille Canyon” brings up articles about helicopter skiing there. That wouldn’t be disturbing to sick bighorn sheep would it? 🙁

  4. Brian Ertz Avatar

    the problem is the Foresters are waiting around on the Payette decision while bighorns are dying … They need to take action now ~

  5. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    If these die offs keep happening how long before bighorns will start needing protection?

  6. kt Avatar

    Thank you for putting this together, Ken.

    The zone of death and devastation left by the welfare ranchers knows no bounds. I think Nevada may have even fewer sheep ranchers than Idaho – a hand full of barons – including SNWA (Pat Mulroy, baroness).

    In this case, it looks like the Paris grazing operation is the culprit.

    Looking at the maps of the various Corta allotments shows how important it is to understand trailing.

    Here, there is a gap between Corta allotmt A and Allot B in the Rubies.

    The sheep must just levitate somehow.

  7. Salle Avatar

    Perhaps they are waiting for all the bighorns to die off so they won’t have to do anything.

  8. kt Avatar

    Salle: I think that is the Plan. Delay and let as much death and destruction as possible happen in the meantime.


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.

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Ken Cole