Outdoors

Region's bighorns slammed by disease

Bighorn sheep graze  in the Yakima River Canyon in 2008.  (File Associated Press)
Bighorn sheep graze in the Yakima River Canyon in 2008. (File Associated Press)

WILDLIFE — Bighorn sheep took a big hit in the Yakima region as well as in Western Montana in 2010, and no one can say the carnage is over.

Pneumonia killed many of the bighorns outright while wildlife managers shot and killed even more to help curb the spread of disease.
 
The outbreak in Washington occurred in the Umtanum herd near Yakima. Of the 300 Umtanum sheep, going into the outbreak in 2009, 42 were found dead and 69 were shot and killed.
 
With the statewide bighorn population at about 1,600, biologists will monitor the Umtanum herd and hope for the best this winter.
 
“Lamb production was not good, and we know we'll see more sick animals, but we hope the disease will at least hold the course,” said Donny Martorello, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department bighorn manager.
 
In Western Montana, around two thirds of several bighorn herds were wiped out by pneumonia and culling by state wildlife officials trying to thwart the spread of disease.



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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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