A one-year-old bighorn sheep ram that mingled with domestic sheep near Challis was euthanized Friday, April 14, to prevent the sheep from potentially carrying disease back to the wild herd. This is the third bighorn sheep removed from the same area on the edge of Challis since March 30.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials euthanized the yearling ram after receiving reports that it was observed inside a pen on private property with a small flock of domestic sheep.
Domestic sheep and goats often carry pathogens that wild sheep may be susceptible to and that can result in fatal pneumonia or other diseases. The greatest risk occurs when a wild sheep mixes with domestic sheep or goats and then returns to a wild herd, potentially spreading the pathogens to other wild sheep. In some cases, this can result in large-scale die-offs in wild sheep.
"We hate to have to take this action, but we believe it's necessary to stop the spread of a disease that could devastate multiple herds of wild bighorn sheep,” said Hollie Miyasaki, Fish and Game Bighorn Sheep biologist. “We will continue to work with the landowner to prevent any more interactions.”
The Department’s 2010 Bighorn Sheep Management Plan provides direction that Fish and Game remove bighorns in a timely manner when they come in contact with domestic herds to prevent potential transmission of disease to other bighorn sheep. Fish and Game officials have been, and will continue to work cooperatively with Idaho State Department of Agriculture, domestic sheep operators, and other agencies to maintain separation between wild bighorns and domestic sheep to ensure the state maintains healthy self-sustaining populations of wild bighorn sheep populations, while maintaining a viable domestic sheep industry.
Fish and Game received reports on Friday morning the bighorn was seen near domestic sheep. The ram was euthanized in the domestic sheep pen after he was observed in the pen within 20 feet of the domestic sheep for the second time. After the bighorn ram repeatedly entered the small domestic sheep pen, the most prudent course of action was to euthanize the ram to prevent risk of it returning to the wild herds and potentially infecting other bighorn sheep.
Samples were taken immediately after the sheep was euthanized, and the samples have been sent to a wildlife health lab for analysis. The domestic sheep continue to be tested.
For biologists to respond quickly and protect wild sheep, it is important for people to report interactions immediately between wild bighorns and domestic sheep or goats. Anyone who sees bighorn sheep mixing with domestic sheep or goats is asked to contact the nearest Fish and Game office, or the local Fish and Game conservation officer as soon as possible.