Worm infests Wyoming Moose

May infect as many as 50% of Wyoming moose

In 2008 a moose was discovered in the Star Valley that suffered from both Chronic Wasting Disease and a carotid artery worm, Elaeophora schneideri. It now turns out that up to 50% of the population may have the worm but the true extent of the effects are unknown. The worm is transmitted by the bite of a horsefly which tend to do well under hot and dry conditions.

Worm infests area Moose
Jackson Hole News & Guide.

Judge overturns BLM grazing decision

This is what WWP calls “low hanging fruit”

Ely Sheep Grazing Allotments. The orange polygons represent bighorn sheep distribution and the red polygon represents the Warm Springs sheep trail. Click for larger view.

For the last several years I have been appealing grazing decision issued by the Ely District of the BLM and, over and over again, the District only considers alternatives which maintain the status quo even when they have identified problems on the allotments that are either caused by or exacerbated by livestock grazing.

The decision that was overturned and remanded back to the Ely District was for sheep grazing on 8 allotments encompassing 1.3 million acres of the Egan Field Office.  In their decision the BLM only considered two alternatives, one which would have renewed the previous 10-year decision without any changes; and one which would have renewed the permit with very minor changes in seasonal use, and placed very weak utilization standards on different components of the vegetation but kept the exact same number of grazing AUMs.  They didn’t consider a no grazing alternative or an alternative which would have reduced grazing levels at all.

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Important developments on the Brucellosis front.

Montana and Wyoming infections and capture of elk.

The last week has been filled with many stories about brucellosis and its impacts on wildlife and livestock.

First, Montana has announced plans to capture and test elk for brucellosis then place radio collars on those females that test positive to see where they go and where they give birth.

Montana plans to capture 500 elk for disease testing.
By MATTHEW BROWN – The Associated Press

This comes at the same time that cattle in Wyoming have tested positive for brucellosis which has caused the state to implement wider testing to determine if there are other cases nearby.

Cows in Park County cattle herd test positive for brucellosis exposure.
By JEFF GEARINO – Star-Tribune staff writer

Wyoming plans to test up to 3,000 cattle.
Associated Press

On top of all of this news come reports that domestic bison on Ted Turner’s Flying D ranch have tested positive for the disease.  These are not the bison from the Yellowstone quarantine program.

Brucellosis Found in Domestic Bison Herd.
Montana Department of Livestock

Brucellosis Found In Domestic Bison Near Bozeman.
cbs4denver.com

In response to the infections of brucellosis in previous years the state of Montana implemented a plan which called for increased surveillance in counties which surround Yellowstone National Park in an effort to spare the entire state of losing its brucellosis free status in the event that further infections occur.

Livestock officials set meetings on brucellosis rule
The Belgrade News

All too often, when infections are found, officials blame elk before there is any evidence to support the claim.  While it may be likely that elk are behind these incidents it is important to investigate other sources in an effort to determine whether other cattle may be the source as well.

One thing has been determined with regard to past incidents, bison are not to blame.

DNA Tests Indicate Yellowstone National Park Elk, Not Bison, Most Likely To Spread Brucellosis

Don’t worry about the man behind the curtain.

In so many ways the issue of brucellosis in bison and elk is similar to the issue of domestic sheep diseases and bighorn except the rationalization for killing wildlife is just the opposite.

We now know that domestic sheep are responsible for disease issues in bighorn sheep and those who support the livestock industry want to simply deny it and continue to allow domestic sheep to use areas where there is an obvious conflict and to kill bighorn sheep if the “invade” the sacred domestic sheep allotments.

With bison the same argument is turned on its head so that bison are routinely hazed and slaughtered for being on the sacred landscape of the holy cow. Forget that there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that bison are a truly a risk to cattle that are not even on the landscape when bison are capable of transmitting brucellosis. The bison must be tortured and killed so that the sacred cow can eat the grass that those pesky beasts are eating.

Well, now comes evidence to show that bison another species, elk, have been the culprit in spreading brucellosis to the sacred cow. Are we now going to see a new war waged against them? Forget that brucellosis came from domestic livestock in the first place. Something must be done to protect the kings and queens of the West and the taxpayer must fork over millions upon millions of dollars for a pointless and impossible eradication exercise so that the livestock industry won’t ever have to face any adversity.

Think it won’t happen? Well, it has already begun and the livestock industry will use this new study to rationalize it and to rationalize continuation of their bison policies as well.

DNA Tests Indicate Yellowstone National Park Elk, Not Bison, Most Likely To Spread Brucellosis.
Kurt Repanshek – National Parks Traveler

National Coverage of Bighorn Sheep Disease Issues

Western Watersheds Project’s litigation and recent scientific studies changing the playing field.

Bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon of Idaho © Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon of Idaho © Ken Cole

Across the West domestic sheep operations threaten the viability of bighorn sheep populations and have caused serious declines because of the diseases they carry. Last winter there were ten populations that suffered from pneumonia outbreaks and many more are suffering the lingering effects of previous outbreaks which reduces lamb survival to very low levels for many years after the initial outbreak.

In Hell’s Canyon bighorn sheep are only a small fraction of the estimated 10,000 capacity. These sheep have faced a declining population because the lamb survival is too low to replace the adults that die of other causes. The Salmon River Canyon and Central Idaho herds have faced many of these same issues but they are the last remaining native bighorn in the state.

Western Watersheds Project has been working very hard to get the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to develop scientifically based policies which would effectively keep bighorn sheep from ever coming into contact with domestic sheep. Unfortunately political interference by the woolgrowers and politicians has prevented the agencies from tackling this issue head on. Recently, though, the Payette National Forest decided to close about 70% of the sheep grazing area due to concerns of disease. This is one of the first cracks in the armor of the oligarchical system which holds great political sway but provides little, if any, economic benefit to the public for the subsidies it provides.

The Payette Bighorn Sheep Viability Decision has been appealed by Western Watersheds Project; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; the State of Washington, Department of Fish & Wildlife; the Nez Perce Tribe with other groups; and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation primarily because it implements the decision gradually over a period of three years rather making the closures all at once. The Idaho Woolgrowers Association et. al.; Soulen Livestock Company; Frank Shirts Jr., Shirts Brothers Sheep, & Ronald and Leslie Shirts have all appealed the decision because it threatens their interests. One glaring absence is the Idaho Department of Fish and Game who recently issued a Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially maintains the status quo because it feels it has no power to influence the decisions of the Federal land management agencies. This would be an incorrect assumption if it weren’t for the political interference of the small but politically powerful group of woolgrowers on the legislature.

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Posted in Bighorn sheep, disease, domestic sheep, public lands. Tags: , , . Comments Off on National Coverage of Bighorn Sheep Disease Issues

New Study Comfirms that Bighorn Sheep Die from Domestic Sheep Diseases

Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

A new study in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases confirms, unequivocally, that the domestic sheep disease Mannheimia haemolytica kills bighorn sheep after the two species co-mingle. This paper has been rumored for the last several months and was cited in the recent Payette National Forest decision to close 60% of sheep grazing allotments on the Forest.

Surely this should end the discussion among reasonable people about whether science supports the notion that domestic sheep and bighorn sheep can co-exsist. They cannot and actions must be taken by Federal and State agencies to make sure that the two species do not overlap on the landscape.

ABSTRACT:   Previous studies demonstrated that bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) died of pneumonia when commingled with domestic sheep (Ovis aries) but did not conclusively prove that the responsible pathogens were transmitted from domestic to bighorn sheep. The objective of this study was to determine, unambiguously, whether Mannheimia haemolytica can be transmitted from domestic to bighorn sheep when they commingle. Four isolates of M. haemolytica were obtained from the pharynx of two of four domestic sheep and tagged with a plasmid carrying the genes for green fluorescent protein (GFP) and ampicillin resistance (APR). Four domestic sheep, colonized with the tagged bacteria, were kept about 10 m apart from four bighorn sheep for 1 mo with no clinical signs of pneumonia observed in the bighorn sheep during that period. The domestic and bighorn sheep were then allowed to have fence-line contact for 2 mo. During that period, three bighorn sheep acquired the tagged bacteria from the domestic sheep. At the end of the 2 mo of fence-line contact, the animals were allowed to commingle. All four bighorn sheep died 2 days to 9 days following commingling. The lungs from all four bighorn sheep showed gross and histopathologic lesions characteristic of M. haemolytica pneumonia. Tagged M. haemolytica were isolated from all four bighorn sheep, as confirmed by growth in ampicillin-containing culture medium, PCR-amplification of genes encoding GFP and ApR, and immunofluorescent staining of GFP. These results unequivocally demonstrate transmission of M. haemolytica from domestic to bighorn sheep, resulting in pneumonia and death of bighorn sheep.

via TRANSMISSION OF MANNHEIMIA HAEMOLYTICA FROM DOMESTIC SHEEP (OVIS ARIES) TO BIGHORN SHEEP (OVIS CANADENSIS): UNEQUIVOCAL DEMONSTRATION WITH GREEN FLUORESCENT PROTEIN-TAGGED ORGANISMS — Lawrence et al. 46 (3): 706 — Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

Reminder: Comments Due on IDFG’s Bighorn Sheep Plan Tomorrow

I posted this at the end of August. It’s time to get your comments in.

Don’t color outside the lines

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has released its Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially draws lines around existing bighorn sheep populations and prevents recovery to historical habitat. This is a big problem because the bighorn population has been in steep decline due to diseases spread by domestic sheep.

A population that recovered from over hunting and disease in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s started to increase after hunting regulations and reintroductions took place but the recovery was short lived and now the native and reintroduced populations have suffered from repeated contact with diseased domestic sheep and goats. The population numbered around 5000 in the 1990’s but is now about 2900 and continuing to decline.

Two areas, the Pioneer Mountains west of Mackay, and the Palisades east of Idaho Falls, are areas where dispersing sheep are commonly seen. Under this plan these areas have been essentially written off due to the presence of Federal sheep grazing allotments. Another area that isn’t included as a priority area for sheep recovery is the Sawtooths and the Boise and Payette drainages. These areas contain very suitable habitat yet there are domestic sheep allotments there as well.

The Management Plan is not likely to curb the declines in bighorn sheep populations and the IDFG is afraid to advocate for bighorn sheep conservation. They hold the power to really make the Federal agencies pay attention and close sheep grazing allotments but the IDFG is a captured agency that depends on the good graces of the livestock industry dominated legislature.

Comment on the Bighorn Sheep Management Plan.

The Comment Period Ends September 30, 2010.
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