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Entries in Bighorn sheep (4)


Sheep deaths prompt hunting closure near Gardiner

(HELENA)- As biologists continue to struggle with the cause of a disease that's killing off sheep in the Northern Rockies, wildlife managers are closing hunting in one area near Gardiner to dave the remnants of one herd. 

The sheep pneumonia has been an increasing problem in the region over the past few seasons, killing hundreds of bighorns. Researchers are still trying to work out the exact reasons for the spread of the disease, and why some sheep are immune while others are not. 

The die-off has been particularly bad this season in hunting district 305 in Park County, where 30% of the herd and 40% of the mature rams have died around in the cliffs around Gardiner and Cinnabar since the outbreak started last year. This winter alone, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agents have found more than 2-dozen dead sheep. 

Now, the FWP Commission has approved an emergency closure of the 2015 hunting season in that district to protect the remainder of the herd. The plan would be to re-open hunting when the sheep population recovers. 

Hunters who had already applied will be given a chance to apply elsewhere in the state, or given a refund. Last year about 100-hunters had applied for the single permit that was granted for the 2015 season.


FWP issues warnings after rash of sheep collisions 

(MISSOULA)- Managers with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are warning drivers to be more careful in sheep territory, after seven bighorns were killed on West Central Montana highways in the past week.

FWP says five sheep were killed in collisions with cars and trucks on Highway 200 in the cliffs east of Bonner, with another killed on Lower Rock Creek and a seventh sheep killed when it was hit on Highway 93 along the East Fork of the Bitterroot south of Conner. Fortunately, none of the drivers or passengers were hurt in the wrecks. 

FWP Region 2 Wildlife Biologist, Vickie Edwards, says that bighorn sheep have a small habitat niche that often is bisected by road systems and residential and agricultural development.  

“These areas may not be wildlife crossings per se, but are within year-round, core habitat for bighorn sheep, with bighorns attracted to roadways for salt and irrigated pastures and lawns for green vegetation,” says Edwards. 

Also, FWP says bighorn sheep adapt quickly to vehicular activity and are not always wary of traffic, especially young lambs. 

“Tall grasses along roadways make it challenging for motorists to see adult bighorn sheep, let alone lambs of the year that may dart in front of oncoming traffic,” Edwards says.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks urges motorists to use caution in areas with bighorn sheep and to anticipate bighorns emerging onto roadways without warning.  Motorists in Region 2 may encounter bighorn sheep along the East Fork of the Bitterroot, Highway 93 south of Darby, Skalkaho Road, Highway 1 near Anaconda, Petty Creek Road, Highway 200 along the Blackfoot River and Rock Creek. 


Missoula man killed when his bike hits bighorn sheep

(MISSOULA)- A Missoula motorcycle rider was killed Saturday evening after he hit a bighorn sheep on Highway 200 near Plains. 

KPAX TV reports the 39-year old man was eastbound when the sheep jumped the guardrail and ran onto the road. Troopers say the man hit sheep and was thrown from his bike into the opposite lane where he was hit by an oncoming car. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Highway 200 has on-going problems with sheep coming down off the cliffs that run along the Lower Clark Fork River.



FWP worried about sheep deaths near Thompson Falls

Another sheep dies after being hit by a car east of T Falls- FWP photo(THOMPSON FALLS)- Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks say they're alarmed about the decline in bighorn sheep herds in the Lower Clark Fork Valley, saying herd numbers have dropped from nearly 300 animals 4-years ago to barely more than 50.

State officials count the sheep every spring, and while the count doesn't include every single sheep in the herds near Thompson Falls, it's the total drop that has them concerned. And the on-going problem of collisions between sheep and cars on Highway 200 seems to be a major factor.

FWP says in the past four years more than 100 ewes and rams were killed after being struck by vehicles. Biologists say 5-sheep were killed in a single collision this spring. 

The state's concern is that deaths of breeding females poses a serious risk to the viability of the herd in the Lower Clark Fork.