Pneumonia outbreak widens; FWP will kill 95 sheep in West Riverside herd

Four recent outbreaks of disease in the west

Bighorn Sheep from the Bonner herd © Ken Cole
Bighorn Sheep from the Bonner herd © Ken Cole

There are four disease outbreaks among bighorn sheep herds in the news this winter, two in Montana, one in Nevada, and one in Washington State. This is the time of year when bighorn sheep are concentrated so diseases are more easily transmitted.

There has been no mention of where these sheep contracted pneumonia but, as I mentioned in the recent story about this, there is domestic sheep grazing in an effort to control weeds in the nearby mountains. Could this be the cause?

Pneumonia outbreak widens; FWP will kill 95 sheep in West Riverside herd
By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian



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  1. JimT Avatar

    So, if the bighorns caught it from the domestic sheep, why aren’t domestic sheep being culled as well? Are we not trying to bring the bighorn numbers back?

  2. jburnham Avatar

    I’d need to see more information before concluding that these bighorns caught pneumonia from the sheep used to control weeds. It’s certainly possible, but these sheep are grazed on a pretty small area, most of which is visible from Missoula. I’ve never seen a bighorn in the areas grazed for weed control, and I can’t recall seeing one closer than about 8 miles away from the weed control areas. My guess is there are too many people, bikes, and dogs for bighorns to use these areas. Not to mention, I-90 which separates part of the grazed areas from these bighorns.

    Ken, if you hear any more info about this, please do share it.

  3. WildPhotos Avatar

    Lots of coverage by the paper on these. Ironically they were posting pictures in December of the local bighorns bedded down in the towns backyards and saying there were so many they were thinking of getting rid of some (presumbably by transplanting them elsewhere. The 95 number they expect to have to kill seems to come from the count of how many have been spotted in town.

    Some really nice rams were in the bunch in this 12/10/09 pic.

    And the followup article today in which they also talk about the 30 they had to kill in Darby two months ago.

    The domestic sheep situation – ie sheep ranchers have a say in how the bighorns are managed – seems to be about the same as in Idaho.


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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