Tough choice for DWR in killing potentially infected Bighorn rams
The Division of Wildlife Resources killed two Bighorn rams near the Carbon Power Plant last Wednesday, an action that biologist Brad Crompton called unfortunate but necessary to protect the main herd in the Nine Mile Canyon area from communicable disease.
The two rams and perhaps several other sheep had apparently wandered from the county's east side. That put them close to US Highway 6, and the other side of the highway is an area where domestic sheep graze. "There's no telling where they have been," Crompton explained, "and we did not want to take the risk. There are about 1,000 in the Nine Mile area."
Wild Bighorns are highly susceptible to the diseases of domestic sheep, chiefly Pasteurella and Mycoplasma. These are lung diseases that spread like wildfire in herds that have no resistance.
A recent exposure of Bighorns to domestics in Idaho resulted in an epidemic that killed roughly 600 out of 700 wild sheep in less than a month, Crompton said.
Capturing and quarantining the potentially exposed animals is generally not feasible. "Ideally it would be great, but the terrain is just too rough," he said.
The harvesting of the rams "was not fun at all," Crompton added, noting that sportsmen and wildlife officials have worked hard to restore and protect the Bighorn population in Utah over many years.