The Times-News has a story highlighting some history concerning bighorn sheep in southern Idaho.
Stories concerning bighorn sheep have focused on the majestic animals’ past. But recent reports of developments concerning their management, reported in real time, have prompted positive results for bighorn management in the state of Idaho. Thanks are due Ralph for the light. With this in mind, I include some ulterior context below the fold:
Of Big Cottonwood Creek
These bighorn are referenced in the article so an update is due :
Seventy-four bighorn sheep were introduced into unit 54 between 1986 and 1990, with poor results. Only 15 are believed still to be alive.
These sheep have been struggling to persist in Big Cottonwood Creek on the Sawtooth National Forest’s Cassia Division for some time. Keep in mind, it is important that bighorns are given more space than the within one mile of domestic sheep that has been documented in this area – that formal request has been made of FS. The best science insists on 9 miles to prevent the spread of deadly pneumonia from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep.
The article also mentions the political controversy of the re-introduction of bighorn:
The Idaho Wool Growers Association opposed the re-introduction of wild sheep onto Jim Sage Mountain. The IWA argument stated: Wool growers are increasingly threatened with loss of grazing rights when sheep ranchers receive blame for disease appearing in wild sheep, thus deeded grazing rights are being systematically stripped from the sheep industry.
Indeed, the IWA has reason to worry about the persistence of bighorn. The industry is faced with another wild and majestic animal that forces a confrontation between the incompatibility of domestic sheep grazing with vibrant wildlife values on public lands in the arid West – and the legal questions are being answered in favor of wildlife protection.
In the case of Nez Perce National Forest’s Allison-Berg allotment, of bighorn that inhabit the Salmon River canyon, IWA encouraged the individual producer to fight in court to prevent the removal of domestic sheep. The resulting case brought to bare photographs of a bird perched upon a bighorn’s nose as evidence that other species might be spreading the disease. Not quite – even as nice as the photos might be. The judge ordered the sheep off of the allotment citing the widespread scientific acknowledgment that domestic sheep are deadly to bighorn. Wildlife conservationists successfully win a trend setting case for bighorn.
Update: ‘ghost grizzly’ was kind enough to pass along this link concerning bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon falling victim to disease this year :
Bighorn: Immunization may be hard in canyon
Adult sheep were spared, offering some hope but leaving experts scrambling to help
The Oregonian Staff
Comments following further down the thread shed light on this development, and similar observations concerning the prevalence of wayward domestic sheep in this area have been documented.
“In fact, for IWA the battle between wild and domestic sheep has only just begun.”
Legal victories in favor of bighorn prompted rumors of high level Idaho meetings aimed at rearranging state management to reaffirm domestic sheep predominance in state management. Talk revolved around ideas of shifting management from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, whose mission is informed by the following:
[Wildlife] shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping.
to an alternative Idaho agency, the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, whose management as described in its Strategic Plan for 2007 (pdf) is guided on behalf of a slightly different interest:
The Idaho State Department of Agriculture has an ever-important place in one of the state’s largest industry sectors. We recognize Idaho’s economic well-being is forever tied to the health of its farming and ranching. We also recognize new opportunities exist that will redefine the future of agriculture in Idaho. As agriculture changes, ensuring efficient and superior service delivery will be the department’s foremost priority. The pledge has been made to optimize the value of principles our farmers and ranchers have framed over the past century.
We know how Western state agricultural agencies percieve wildlife that allegedly conflict with livestock production. That story is as conspicuous as the differing management directives found in these statements. Livestock predominance over wildlife – codified.
Under the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, the means could be more easily employed to ensure distance between bighorn and domestic sheep via an alternative to retirement of domestic sheep allotments. Those means include the write up of arbitrary boundaries surrounding domestic sheep that if crossed by bighorns trigger orders to destroy offending bighorn. The fulcrum shifts from protecting bighorn from domestic sheep, which by any standard of the imagination are more valuable to the state than domestic sheep, to protecting domestic sheep from bighorn.
Whether these arrangements spread throughout the state is still a festering question.
Rumor of the gathering of state officials with Livestock interests were vindicated with this press release issued by the IDFG. Suggestion has been made that the light cast on this behind-closed-doors meeting has forestalled the change-up of management for the time being. Now, meetings are to be held in public working groups.
Tomorrow, the first meeting open to the public is to be held in Boise.