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Diseased bighorn herd in Montana cropped 50 percent by hunters

HUNTING — In a state-endorsed effort to eliminate disease-prone wild sheep, hunters in Montana have harvested about half of a bighorn herd in the Tendoy Mountains.

The wild sheep in the Tendoys southeast of Dillon have experienced major die-offs due to pneumonia twice in the last 25 years.

Attempts to augment the population by bringing in healthy sheep have been unsuccessful.

The intentions to use hunters to kill off the herd were proposed in June.

The Independent Record reports that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has approved a plan calling for total elimination of the herd to end the illnesses. So far hunters have harvested 18 bighorn sheep since hunting began Sept. 5 for bow hunters and Sept. 15 for the general season.

There are between 30 and 40 animals in the herd.

Once the population is removed, officials plan to restock the area with about 50 healthy animals.

Biologists will kill Naches bighorns to curb disease

WILDLIFE — Noting that at least 25 wild sheep have already been found dead, state wildlife officials announced today they plan to euthanize a large percentage bighorns remaining in the Naches area to curb the spread of a deadly pneumonia outbreak running through the herd.  

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists and U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services staff plan to shoot wild sheep over the next few weeks in the Tieton herd, about 10 miles west of Naches.

Because most of the sheep are believed to be infected with a disease that causes pneumonia, almost all of the animals will likely need to be euthanized, said Richard Harris, WDFW manager for special species.

This is just the latest of several outbreaks that have wracked the region's bighorns.

Read on for details.

Photographer focuses on battling bighorn rams

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bighorn rams defy the concussion issue plaguing the sport of football.

With unbelievable power they reserved for the mating seasons, males prove their superiority with a challenging ram by squaring off and rising to their hind feet to "ram" their horns together. The impact sounds like the boom of a high-powered rifle.  They usually back off to collect themselves, their eyes bugged out and rolling a bit — then they often do it again!   And AGAIN.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson scored big time with bighorns this month as he found a group of rams vying for the distinction to breed.

He not only scored great profiles and head-ramming photos, but also one of the best photos I've seen of an unusually aggressive ram launching a foe airborne with a blow to the ribs. Ouch!

He also got a shots of the broken, or "broomed" ends of the tough horns on some rams after their breeding-right battles. 

Finally, he visited the bighorns recently as the rut apparently had wound down, showing rams that looked a bit exhausted from the wear and tear.

  • Click "continue reading" to see a small selection of the "thousands of images" Jaime and his photographer wife Lisa shot of this band of wild sheep.
  • See video of bighorn rams in battle.

Truck wipes out 30 percent of bighorn herd’s lambs

WILDLIFE  — A Missoula-area bighorn herd that's been ravaged by disease suffered another blow recently as a single truck wiped out a third of this season's bighorn lamb reproduction in the lower Rock Creek drainage.

The unidentified Idaho driver collided with seven lambs while driving near the Rock Creek Trout Bums fly shop along the popular fishing stream south of Interstate 90.

"A tragedy in itself, the deaths also hammered a herd already halved by a pneumonia outbreak two years ago," says the story in the Missoulian.

“They were just super frisky, and they played in a group,” said Trout Bums co-owner Deb Peltier. “They came off the mountain racing, like they always do. They were like toddlers – oblivious to everything. When I got there, there were baby sheep laying everywhere like bowling pins. It was a horrible, awful sight.”

Excessive speed on the county road is a regular problem, local authorities say.