Bighorn sheep could be taken to other states

Helena, Mont. (AP) – As many as 85 bighorn sheep could be
shipped from Montana to Utah and Washington under a proposal
endorsed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.

The sheep would come from three areas, including the Sun River
on the Rocky Mountain Front and from hunting districts near Deer
Lodge. Under the plan, the states receiving the sheep would pay all
the associated costs – about $600 per animal to capture – plus lab
fees.

The sheep, which probably would be transplanted at the beginning
of next year, would be used to augment herds in northeastern Utah
and southeastern Washington.

But even though commissioners agreed to the proposal, some
questioned why the sheep _ one of the state’s premier big game
species – aren’t being used to bolster existing herds in Montana
with dwindling numbers, or to start new herds here.

Commissioner Willy Doll pointed to the Elkhorn Mountain Range,
where pneumonia recently caused the bighorn sheep population to
plummet from more than 220 to about 20.

“We’ve had sheep die-offs in the state and those haven’t been
resupplied,” Doll said. “Can we take some of those and put them
back in the Elkhorns?”

Quentin Kujala, FWP wildlife management bureau chief, said that
while the topic is still open for debate, biologists are careful
when adding to existing herds because they don’t want to replace
the bighorns only to have the new ones die too. Kujala said they
looked at some areas for augmentation, but none is ready just
yet.

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