14 years ago, the state’s bighorn sheep herds were dying from pneumonia that was thought to have been contracted from grazing domestic sheep. Since then, the state has worked with wildlife advocates and ranchers on the so-called Wyoming Plan which designates areas for each species. Last year, the Legislature passed bills formally adopting the Wyoming Plan in hopes of keeping domestic sheep from spreading pneumonia to wild sheep.
Now, that same collaborative approach has been codified in a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service. Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott says it’s the job of his agency to manage the health of the animals, while it’s the job of the Forest Service to manage their habitat.
“Certainly the goal of the MOU is that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service and the state of Wyoming will manage for viable bighorn sheep populations in Wyoming.”
Talbott says the state’s herds are still recovering from those years of disease.
“We have not documented significant die-offs of pneumonia in Wyoming for quite some time,” Talbott says. “We do have some questions regarding the Whiskey Mountain herd which is outside of Dubois. That herd had some die-offs in the mid-90’s and at this point has never recovered to that pre-die off population estimate.”
Talbott says he hopes the agreement will help ensure Wyoming keeps a healthy bighorn sheep herd into the future.