Disease Jumps From Domestic to Wild Sheep

More reporting about the bighorn/domestic sheep disease study

Other than the study itself, this is the first time that I’ve heard Dr. Srikmaran talk about last year’s study which confirms that domestic sheep diseases kill bighorn sheep.

“I am not that happy about this finding. Some people’s livelihood depends on domestic sheep,” [But the] “organisms did not exist anywhere else. They could only come from one place, the domestic sheep.” – Dr. Subramaniam Srikmaran

Some people who support the sheep industry have made misrepresentations of what the study actually says. They say that “these data show that even extended fence line contact of 2 months didn’t lead to disease and death. Disease required co-mingling for a minimum of 48 hours and this was after transmission had already occurred in three of the bighorn sheep.”

I’ve had the chance to read the study and, in fact, it does not say that it took two days of commingling to produce disease. It says that one of the sheep died within two days of the beginning of commingling portion of the experiment. All four of the bighorn sheep, even the one which did not contract M. haemolytica during the fenceline portion of the study died within 9 days of the beginning of the commingling portion of the study. There is no evidence to support the claim that “disease required co-mingling for a minimum of 48 hours”.

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Whose Sheep? How wild sheep lose out to their domesticated brethren

Earlier I linked to the WWP blog story “Bighorn Sheep Threaten Western Way of Life?

Now the Boise Weekly has reprinted an article from High Country News giving more background into the controversy that led to the successful lawsuit this spring that kept the Payette National Forest from ignoring its court ordered duty to keep the domestic sheep and bighorn sheep apart.

Whose Sheep? How wild sheep lose out to their domesticated brethren. By Nathaniel Hoffman, High Country News.

This issue will be back next spring.

Just a few domestic sheep and bighorn sharing the same country could set off disease that would undo a generation of efforts to restore bighorn to the Idaho/Oregon border at Hells Canyon.