ODFW kills 5 Bighorn Sheep
I was wondering how many of you Oregon sheep nuts had heard about ODFW killing 5 recently transplanted California Bighorns. John Day's District Bio made the call to have 5 sheep shot because for a short time they were in the same area as a small (8 head) bunch of domestic sheep in a fenced in pasture. No documentation that they even made contact and its unlikely they did. This happened last spring or winter, can't recall for certain. It didn't set to well with a lot of the locals. The area is on the John Day river between Picture Gorge and Kimberly, probably 20 miles of some of the best sheep habitat in Oregon. Ryan Torland, the biologist, says he has no plans to supplement the herd and there is only one mature (3 year old?) ram left with the ewes. Seems like a waste to me, both in the loss of the animals and time and money spent to put those sheep there. Torland has been trying to transfer out of the area which my contribute to his 'oh well' attitude.
I do not know the details of this situation, but I will relay the experience we had in my area of MT:
The MT FWP biologist made a gutsy call when bighorns started to cough in a district here in the Bitterroot. They shot many, many sheep in a short period of time. In a nearby district at the same time, they took the standard "wait and see" approach, and lost a much higher percentage of sheep. The consensus here now is that the swift action in our area prevented a lot of damage.
It seems that wild sheep are very susceptible to pneumonia from domestic sheep and swift action can help. The cough has completely eradicated some herds of sheep in MT in the past.
If the sheep they killed were coughing, it was a good call, IMO.
BB is right on. The John Day area is one of the most successful sheep transplants ever. I understand that herd in the John Day River canyon (east and west side) has around 900 sheep where there were none about 20 to 25 years ago. I think 5 sheep is a small price to pay to protect that herd. My wife had the privilege of hunting sheep there in 2012 and killed a gorgeous ram.
Last edited by Umpqua Hunter; 12-08-2013 at 08:28 PM.
Grand Slam #1005
UH, I'm talking about a new area on the John Day River about 100 river miles above where you hunted. No coughing was observed and the Bighorns weren't even seen with the 8 head of domestics. Radio collars on the 5 rams indicated that they were in the same general area for a short period while exploring their new home at the north end of the range. My point is that they killed all the breeding rams and have no intention of supplementing the new transplant. I attached the link for the video.
We've experienced devastating results of pneumonia among our sheep population as well. It is better to be safe than sorry. Any interaction between wild sheep and domestic sheep is not good. Bb post is a great example of the two different scenarios it could have been.
The budget and length of process to transplant sheep might be in the way of transporting sheep into that area. Do you know if they killed the sheep before or after the rut? Maybe they are planning on sheep from a neighboring unit to come in there?
I agree with the pneumonia issue, but with no documentation of contact or no signs of sickness? This is also a very isolated new herd without any chance of interaction with other groups of bighorn sheep. If they were that concerned why didn't they kill all of them? Without new additional transplants the remaining sheep will end up being an inbred herd with no future.
I would speculate something is being lost in translation. Either there was contact, or signs of cough, or both.
The biologists I have had the chance to visit with were all reasonable people that dedicated years of study and professional development to game management.
In my area similar things have been said about biologists here after they made decisions that were unpopular with some people. It is definitely one of those professions where everybody seems to know their job better than they do.
However, that is just what I have seen with those I have met. Again, I don't know that particular biologist or the details of that case other than what you have shared, but it just seems like there is likely more to the story.
A few years ago when I drew my sheep tag here in Oregon I saw a really sick big ram in the John Day canyon on the East side. We reported it to ODFW and they told us that if we seen it again to shoot it and call them immediatly because they did not want to take the risk of the sheep being around domestics. We found the sheep the next day and it was dead and later determined to die of natural causes. I understand why they are so cautious about bighorns getting mixed in with domestics because it will wipe out the whole sheep herd. I was talking to a bio here in NE Oregon the other day he told me that there once was a herd that was doing wonderful right by where I live but they got mixed in with domestic sheep and it wiped them out. All of the landowners on the John Day river canyon had to sign some sort of agreement that they would not raise domestic sheep. That is the resolve until we can find out why the bighorns die from the domestic sheep.
I am certain that the call to kill was correct. If there's any species ODFW manages well, it is sheep. No other animal (besides Mt Lions, Bears and Wolfs) have populated nearly as well in Oregon in the last 20 years.
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