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Past News

Grant will help sheep foundation buy corridor
BUTTE, July 1, 2015– The Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Sheep Foundation recently received a grant which will go toward buying and creating a wildlife corridor along Highway 1, seven miles west of Anaconda.

Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust approved a $224,040 grant to the foundation last week. This is one-third of the cost of the land. YT Timber, a subsidiary of RY Timber, is selling the land for $672,120.

The 224 acres the foundation is trying to buy is adjacent to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Garrity Wildlife Management Area and will help create a corridor for wild animals, particularly Lost Creek bighorn sheep, to travel through. Read more...

Tendoy Bighorn Sheep
June 16, 2015, Montana FWP - Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wants to go ahead with a plan to depopulate the chronically diseased Tendoy Mountains bighorn sheep herd using public hunting as the primary tool. The area would then be restocked with healthy bighorns. Read more...

May 15, 2015, Montana WSF (comments to Montana FWP on proposed Tendoy Bighorn Sheep Depopulation and Restocking - On behalf of the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation (MTWSF) and in coordination with the Wild Sheep Foundation National Organization (WSF), please accept these comments regarding the draft EA on the Proposed Depopulation and Restocking of the Tendoy Mountains bighorn sheep herd. Read more...

Pneumonia strikes East Fork Bitterroot bighorn herd
HAMILTON, May 28, 2015 – For the second time in six years, the bighorn sheep herd in the East Fork of the Bitterroot appears to be suffering a die-off from an outbreak of pneumonia.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks' Bitterroot-based biologist Rebecca Mowry is asking for people’s help in keeping tabs on the herd in an effort to keep the illness from spreading. Read more...

Sportsmen Call on Montana Legislature to Restore Vital Funding
April 2, 2015, MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and other Montana hunters and anglers call on the Montana Legislature to restore the spending authority of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP).

“This does not make sense,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “In essence, the Legislature is both jeopardizing crucial access and habitat funding while also turning its collective back on Montana’s sportsmen who have long fought for better access to public lands and improved wildlife conservation and management. It is sportsmen and women who funded these programs for the betterment of wildlife in the state.”

At issue are the cuts to some of Montana’s most productive and heavily-supported wildlife programs. On March 25, 2015, the House Appropriations Committee removed FWP’s spending authority for the following programs from HB 403, and the Montana House subsequently passed the measure:

  • Eliminated the Habitat Montana program appropriation of $10,668,000
  • Eliminated the Upland Game Bird program appropriation of $849,000
  • Eliminated the Big Horn Sheep Habitat program appropriation of $460,000
  • Eliminated the Fishing Access Site program appropriation of $345,000
  • Reduced the state special revenue appropriation for the Migratory Bird Program by $210,000 and restricted the use of the balance to prevent land acquisition
“The Habitat Montana program is critical because it protects crucial habitat including elk, deer and sheep winter range and migration corridors. It also expands and improves wildlife management areas,” said Allen. Read more...

Lobbying against a hobby: Disease keeps bighorn sheep at the edge
January 18, 2014, TOWNSEND, MT - It pains biologist Tom Carlsen to remember the time he found people squatting on a secluded property in the Elkhorn Mountains in 2008.

The squatters didn't bother Carlsen so much; it was their menagerie. Somehow, they managed to cart around 80 goats, a dozen sheep, a few cattle and llamas.

“They would raise their goats in the trailer where they lived. They didn't have any fencing, and these animals ended up roaming across the landscape up to 10 miles away,” Carlsen said. “We contacted the Department of Livestock and the Bureau of Land Management, but there was very little done.” Read more...

Montana Tag Breaks Auction Record
February 1, 2013 - The Montana bighorn tag sold at the National WSF auction for a record $480,000. Montana WSF member, Jack Chambers recalled that the old record was $405,000 for an Alberta tag. The Montana tag sold last year for $300,000. A very big night for our great state of Montana. 90% of that comes back to Montana and goes in our state  'sheep fund.'

Yellowstone Sheep Capture (as reported in our January 2013 Newsletter)

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Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks just released the 2nd Edition of A Landowner's Guide to Wildlife Friendly Fences: How to Build Fence with Wildlife in Mind - some great tips!

Mountain Lion Predation on Wild Sheep
Wolves in Montana capture most of the publicity when wildlife populations decline in numbers. For bighorn sheep the mountain lion can be the major predator that causes changes in herd populations. The report at left was published in 2006 on the long term effects of mountain lions on three bighorn sheep populations including two herds in Alberta, Canada and the National Bison Range herd in Western Montana. You can download the entire report by clicking here.

Region 1 Bighorn Sheep Annual Report
2013. Each year Bruce Sterling, Thompson Falls area biologist and Montana Bighorn Sheep Coordinator completes a report on population surveys and harvest data for all hunting districts in Region 1. The Region One Bighorn Sheep Annual Report July 2012-June 2013 can be downloaded by clicking here.

Montana Hopes New Additive Stops Hwy 200 Sheep Accidents
December 28, 2012, THOMPSON FALLS, MT - Highway and wildlife managers are hoping a new de-icer and possibly a speed limit change will be enough to stop the number of accidents involving bighorn sheep in the Lower Clark Fork Valley.

The Montana Department of Transportation and Fish, Wildlife and Parks are trying a product that won't attract the sheep to the highway.

Over the years, including the summer of 2012, people have collided with the sheep while driving down the highway from the cliffs above the river. MDT has erected warning signs, and the adjacent railroad tracks are fenced off. But the sheep are drawn to the pavement like moths to a flame, especially in the winter, when highway crews apply magnesium chloride to the pavement as a deicer.

This winter, MDT is trying something different, using a product called "Game Away" as an additive to a more traditional salt/sand solution in hopes that it won't attract the sheep to the salty taste of mag chloride. It's effectiveness will be studied all winter in three test periods.

In addition, Sanders County leaders have agreed to look at a speed study to see if that might also help reduce the number of serious collisions between sheep and cars.

In the meantime, FWP biologist Bruce Sterling says the best thing for people to do is slow down and drive defensively, especially on the blind corners and curves. He says even if the additive works, there's still potential for the sheep to be down along the highway, especially where the cliff face is close to the road. See video...

Website Addresses Disease Transmission from Domestic Sheep to Bighorn Sheep
August, 25, 2012 - Among other items, this website includes several photos of young displaced rams mixing with domestic sheep. Click here to view.

Subcommittee Chairman Simpson’s Statement on Bighorn Sheep Provision
June 27, 2012, Washington, D.C. - “Recently there has been a great deal of controversy regarding the bighorn sheep and domestic sheep grazing provision in the FY12 Omnibus Appropriations bill and the FY13 House bill.  Ground zero for this issue has been in Idaho where many long-time ranching families have been put out of business due to concerns about potential disease transmission to bighorn sheep.  I will repeat what I’ve said before—I think there is a better way and we can both protect bighorn sheep while avoiding putting ranching families out of business. 

“Today, I’m calling for a ‘time out’ from the fighting and allegations—many of which are false.  I got involved in this issue because I care deeply for our ranchers and for the tribes and sportsmen who work so hard on bighorn sheep conservation.  I got involved to find a reasonable solution and tried to work with ranchers, hunters, and land management agencies to solve this problem.  Unfortunately, this has only elevated the rhetoric and controversy of the issue.  Fighting over this problem serves no purpose and does not benefit hunting or ranching.  As a result, I am pulling this provision from the Interior Appropriations bill; however, I am only doing this to have all interested parties come to the table and work with me on a solution.  Too often, one side or the other is satisfied with the status quo.  In this case it is not acceptable—and losing part of our heritage, whether it be bighorn sheep in Idaho or ranchers in Idaho—is not an option.  I intend to hold a round table soon to discuss this problem and potential solutions.

“Good people can disagree on issues and in this case, good people do disagree.  I have heard that the science is settled and I have heard that the science is not settled; this comes from scientists, land managers, hunters, ranchers and state agencies.  What is clear is there’s no consensus.  Intelligent people on both sides of this issue disagree.  To me, this means more research is needed and this should be supported by all parties.

“I also must correct some of the misinformation circulating on blogs: 

  • The provision currently in effect for FY12 allows changes to domestic sheep grazing on federal lands as long as those changes are consistent with State wildlife management plans.  States should have more say in the management of wildlife on federal lands—especially when millions of dollars—much of it private donations--have been spent to enhance wildlife.
  • Domestic sheep grazing can be carefully managed and monitored to help prevent interactions with bighorn sheep; many of these practices are already in place, but further research needs to be done.
  • Hunting and ranching are vitally important to the economies of rural America.  Both need to be preserved.
  • Any type of vaccine is several years away from practical application—this is not a silver bullet or short-term solution—but it is worth further research and development.
  • Land management agencies, including the Forest Service and BLM, need to work with the Agricultural Research Service and universities cooperatively to further research.
  • Risk assessment and habitat modeling need to be rigorously reviewed by peers, state agencies and others, to ensure management decisions are based on sound science.”

Simpson moves to block bighorn sheep protection
June 21, 2012, LEWISTON, ID.  Responding to a recent court decision, Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson authored a new rider that explicitly targets bighorn sheep protec-tions on the Payette National Forest. 

Simpson added language to a fiscal year 2013 approp-riations bill for the Department of Interior that blocks the Payette from carrying out cuts to domestic sheep grazing approved by the agency two years ago.  If the bill passes as written, it would prevent the forest from implementing the third and final phase of its plan to separate bighorn sheep from domestics through grazing reductions. 

The Republican chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee added similar language to a fiscal 2012 spending bill that forbid the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management from implement-ing restrictions to sheep grazing that did not exist before July 1, 2011.

But environmental groups sued and last week federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise ruled the forest was except from the rider because the 2010 grazing reduction plan known as the Payette Decision was in existence prior to the deadline.
Winmill’s decision turned on the rider’s use of the word “existed” in reference to planned grazing cuts, rather than a phrase like “carried out” or “implemented.”

The new ride specifically mentions the Payette’s plan and says the agencies are not to spend money to “carry out” grazing reductions in excess of those implemented” on July 1, 2011.

Simpson was unavailable for comment, according to his press secretary, Nikki Watts.

Craig Gehrke of The Wilderness Society, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit, sait it’s time for Congress to stop micromanaging wildlife.

“I’m disappointed we are going down this road again of stopping the separation effort,” he said.  “I would think there is only so long Congress can tell the agencies to ignore this problem and not do anything about it.”

Domestic sheep carry a pneumonia-like disease that is deadly when transmitted to wild sheep.  Wildlife managers have said keeping the two species separated is the best way to protect bighorns.  Read more (including an opinion piece)...

Mountain Goats Worrisome in Bighorn Sheep Territory
February 20, 2012, JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Non-native mountain goats have gained a foothold in parts of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and could threaten native bighorn sheep, including the Teton Range bighorn sheep herd, biologists say.

Researchers from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have joined forces to study the hardy, aggressive invaders, which have likely begun breeding in the Teton Range.

"They don't get much attention," said Bob Garrott, director of Montana State University's Fish and Wildlife Ecology and Management Program, and leader of the research effort.

"Learning more about their population ecology and spacial ecology can help inform management and conservation."

Garrott and his colleagues are capturing mountain goats and outfitting them with two different collars. One collar contains a Global Positioning System device that records the goat's position every six hours for two years.

When that falls off, another activates to give wildlife research less

specific data for the next four years.

Researchers will gather data from 12 collared goats captured in the Palisades Range along the Wyoming-Idaho border southwest of Jackson Hole. They will be looking for the types of habitat goats use, whether they have offspring and how long they survive. That data will then be compared to bighorn sheep research.

"The study areas that we have are the Palisades, where we have goats and no sheep, and the Gros Ventre ... where we have sheep but no goats," Garrott tells the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Researchers also plan to capture both goats and sheep in the Cody area, where the two species occupy the same mountain ranges. In Montana, researchers will study both goats and sheep around Gardiner.

Mountain goats were introduced into mountain ranges in the region, including the Palisades Range, by wildlife managers in Idaho and Montana a few decades ago, "and they're doing quite well and expanding their range," Garrott said. Read more....

Wild Horse Island Bighorn Transplant off to Slow Start
Watch Video

February 2, 2012, BIG ARM - More than one theory emerged Thursday morning as what has become an annual transplant of bighorn sheep off of Flathead Lake's Wild Horse Island got off to a molasses-slow start.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Bruce Sterling wondered out loud if the sheep were getting wise.

This is, after all, the third consecutive year the animals' bucolic existence on the island, 99 percent of which is a primitive state park the sheep share with 150 or so mule deer and seven wild horses, has been suddenly interrupted by a helicopter chasing them.

Maybe the shock-and-awe of the experience has turned into more of an "oh-no-not-this-again, time-to-hide-in-the-trees" affair.

Rick Swisher, the pilot of the Hughes 500D helicopter, had his own idea.

"They don't want to leave," he radioed his field truck driver, John Zaczkowski of St. Cloud, Minn., back on the mainland. "They love it out here - there aren't any mountain lions to get them."

That lack of a predator is one reason bighorn sheep are removed from Wild Horse on a now-yearly basis. The population - counted at 230 last week - is double what FWP feels is ideal for the 2,164-acre island.

"The habitat is extremely high quality," Sterling said. "Their reproductive rate is good, and their survival rate is really good because they have no predators on the island. Read more....

FY 2012 Budget Bill a Mixed Bag for Wild Sheep
December 20, 2011, Cody, Wyoming. Bighorn sheep conservation got a mixed bag in the year-end spend-ing bill (H.R. 2055 - FY12 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012.)

On the downside, House and Senate appropriators stopped the U.S. Forest Service from making decisions or taking actions benefitting wild sheep restoration and enhancement if such action reduces the number of domestic sheep allowed to graze on select public land allotments.  On the other hand, the new law gives state wildlife managers more say in bighorn conservation and recognizes that temporal and spatial separation should continue “unless or until there is no conflict with bighorn sheep management.” Such separation is necessary for the survival of wild sheep, due to disease transmission from domestic sheep.

“While disappointed with Congressional action which delays implementation of a duly-rendered NEPA decision on the Payette National Forest, we appreciate recognition by Congress of the legitimate concern and often deadly impact to wild sheep, when domestic sheep and bighorn sheep interact,” stated Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation.

“Fortunately for wild sheep, Congress backed off from a domestic sheep industry proposed five-year ban on wild sheep conservation efforts on federal lands to a one-year restriction. This result would not have been possible with-out the support of tens of thousands of sportsmen/conser-vationists who urged Congress to work to achieve effective spatial and temporal separation between wild and domestic sheep. In our view, and with their action, Congress has now recognized and elevated this issue” added Thornton. Full Press Release.

Vaccine is no Silver Bullet for Big Horn Sheep
October 21, 2011. Much misinformation has been promulgated by numerous parties, albeit often with the best of intentions, on a hoped for “silver bullet” vaccine to protect wild bighorn sheep from fatal respiratory disease shed by domestic sheep to wild sheep when they come in contact. 

More than a decade ago, the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, established the Rocky Crate/Foundation for North American Wild Sheep Endowed Chair for wild sheep disease research at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University (WSU.)  Since forming the now Rocky Crate/WSF Endowed Chair, WSF and its chapters and affiliates have contributed more than $2 million of private dollars to fund disease research on this critical issue impacting the restoration and enhancement of wild sheep – a highly valued and iconic huntable and watchable North American big game animal. Full article

Put on hold: Biologists decide to wait on bighorn reintroduction for Sula area drainage
October 21, 2011. An outbreak of pneumonia in the Skalkaho area and some wary sheep in the East Fork have caused Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to push back a planned reintroduction of bighorns into a drainage north of Sula.

"We've decided it's not prudent to bring sheep into the Warm Springs drainage right now," said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bitterroot-based biologist Craig Jourdonnais. "Right now, there are just too many things we don't know." Full Article.

 

 
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