Bighorn sheep could be taken to other states

Bighorn sheep could be taken to other states

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- As many as 85 bighorn sheep could be shipped from Montana to Utah and Washington under a proposal endorsed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.

The sheep would come from three areas, including the Sun River on the Rocky Mountain Front and from hunting districts near Deer Lodge. Under the plan, the states receiving the sheep would pay all the associated costs -- about $600 per animal to capture -- plus lab fees.

The sheep, which probably would be transplanted at the beginning of next year, would be used to augment herds in northeastern Utah and southeastern Washington.

But even though commissioners agreed to the proposal, some questioned why the sheep -- one of the state's premier big game species -- aren't being used to bolster existing herds in Montana with dwindling numbers, or to start new herds here.

Commissioner Willy Doll pointed to the Elkhorn Mountain Range, where pneumonia recently caused the bighorn sheep population to plummet from more than 220 to about 20.

"We've had sheep die-offs in the state and those haven't been resupplied," Doll said. "Can we take some of those and put them back in the Elkhorns?"

Quentin Kujala, FWP wildlife management bureau chief, said that while the topic is still open for debate, biologists are careful when adding to existing herds because they don't want to replace the bighorns only to have the new ones die too. Kujala said they looked at some areas for augmentation, but none is ready just yet.

Information from: Independent Record

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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