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Rocky Mountain bighorn plagued by pneumonia

Posted by feww on October 3, 2010

Nine outbreaks of pneumonia across five states have killed about 1,000 bighorns

Image of the Day

Bighorn sheep in Montana. Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [via Reuters]

Researchers have shown that the plague is caused by contact between the wild bighorns and domestic sheep flocks that  graze in ever growing allotments.

“The study proves what a lot of us suspected all along: that domestic sheep are the biggest management challenge to the restoration of wild sheep,” said Kevin Hurley, a bighorn expert at Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“To save the bighorn, wildlife agencies in several Western states where the disease has spread are killing not only sick bighorns but healthy animals that make contact with domestic flocks,” a report said.

“I know it sounds strange that we have to kill bighorns to save them, but we can’t allow an atomic ram to go back into the population and infect the rest of the band. It’s like gangrene—you cut off the toe to save the leg,” said Hurley.

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