Bighorn sheep deaths north of Park continue to mount

Yes, it looks like pneumonia. It usually is. 
It comes from domestic sheep most of the time.

On December 15, Ken Cole reported in the News,Bighorn Sheep Near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park are Dying from Pneumonia.”

Well, it continues. Now Brett French reports in the Missoulian that 30 are now dead. That is 2/3 of those in the herds.

There is also a persistent outbreak in the Tendoy Mountains, south of Dillon, Montana. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is going to kill all the bighorn left in that herd and try to repopulate it in the future. They have reportedly tried to nurse the herd along with healthy transplants. It hasn’t worked.

They are not talking about doing this yet for the sheep north of the Park. They hope for a good crop of lambs to pull the herds through, but if that doesn’t happen, then? Fortunately, the pneumonia has not spread all the way south to Yellowstone Park yet. It might not. Many visitors watch the bighorn on the walls of Gardner Canyon inside the Park.

It is sad to report these bighorn die-offs every winter, and worse that the authorities rarely take action to stop the transmission from the likely animal reservoir of the pathogenic microbes.



  1. Kristi Avatar

    And then you have MFWP wanting to finish off a herd of big horns and start over again, but in a different area. About 50 in that herd.

  2. Stephany Avatar

    I am in Gardiner now, as bison capture and slaughter operations have commenced.

    We counted a mixed group of about 30 bighorn in the Cinnebar Basin, but did not see any of the rams that we usually see up around Eagle Creek or Travertine.

    Buffalo Field Campaign filed a Right to Know request with the Montana Department of Livestock at the end of December, inquiring about Bill Hoppe’s domestic sheep (he is responsible, it is not a coincidence), but they have yet to respond. The Gallatin Wildlife Association is sending a similar RTK to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

    This is MADNESS. Why is there zero discussion of removing the problem — the domestic sheep? There has got to be some recourse. Please advise.

  3. Ian Courts Avatar
    Ian Courts

    I totally agree with Stephany. When are the wildlife (who have nowhere else to go) going to take their rightful place as being of greater value & importance to the area than some ranchers disease spreading wooly eco-vandals?

  4. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    The ultimate solution is to make a offer to this Bill Hoppe person that he could not refuse. This guy has been a scourge to bison, wolves, bighorn sheep and other wildlife and buying him out of his land and removing his sheep would be a big win for all native wildlife.

  5. monty Avatar

    The existing political system doesn’t value the uniqueness of Yellowstone. For all the money that is wasted on wars and such they could pay the marginal ranchers to provide habitat for Bighorns. Ranching has always been a joke at these high dry elevations. Pay the guy to raise bighorns and let him run around in his cowboy uniform!!!

    1. Ed Loosli Avatar
      Ed Loosli

      Monty & Gary:
      Well said… +1


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.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan