Bighorn sheep disease research received a shot in the arm with this year's bighorn tag lottery.
South Bend, Indiana hunter Rick Ferrara bought the right ticket this year. Fish and Game Director Rod Sando drew the winner July 26 in a brief ceremony attended by officers of the Idaho Chapter of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS). Idaho FNAWS members sell lottery tickets throughout the year for this annual drawing that entitles the winner to hunt a bighorn in any of this year's open sheep hunts in Idaho. Second and third place tickets are also drawn in case a winner is disqualified or otherwise unable to use the tag. The second pick was a Boise man while the third came from Pennsylvania.
Idaho FNAWS sold about 6,500 tickets to raise some $55,000 this year. The chapter can retain up to 25 percent of the money to fund administrative costs such as printing tickets and promoting the lottery.
Proceeds of the lottery go toward research into bighorn diseases done at the wildlife health laboratory in Caldwell. Idaho's work in wild sheep diseases--an effort involving Fish and Game researchers and university scientists with funding help from FNAWS--is aimed at new knowledge about problems with wildlife health that have frustrated sheep advocates for years. This pioneering research may one day be applied to bighorn populations across the west.
Director Sando and Fish and Game veterinarian Mark Drew thanked the Idaho FNAWS chapter for its commitment to the bighorn program. The chapter has raised more than $200,000 in research money through the tag lottery.