May 19, 2013 in City, Idaho, Region

Groups want sheep station shut down

Grizzlies have died near site, lawsuit says

BOISE – Four environmental groups are asking a federal judge to order the temporary shutdown of a sheep research station on the Idaho-Montana border that they say is harming the region’s grizzly bear population.

The lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Boise against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service contends the Sheep Experiment Station is operating under a biological opinion that states no known grizzly bear deaths have occurred in the recent past near the station.

But the groups contend that information they obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that within the last eight years there have been several grizzly bear deaths near the sheep station in the Centennial Mountain Range.

As a result, the groups want the federal agency to complete a new biological opinion that considers all the grizzly deaths in the area. The groups note a 392-pound male bear that was being tracked by researchers disappeared last September from sheep station property.

Its collar was later found hidden under a rock in a creek. A bullet cartridge was discovered near where the bear was last detected by researchers. The groups said the cartridge was found at the sheepherders’ camp. The body of the bear was never found.

“Grizzlies are dying on and near the Sheep Station as a consequence of this government grazing,” John Meyer, representing the groups, said in a statement. “That fact cannot be ignored any longer, and the agencies are going to have to come up with a way to truly protect this species and consider removing sheep from the Centennial Mountains altogether.”

The experimental station was established in 1918 for breeding and grazing research.

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