bighorn sheep

A state lawmaker wants the option to remove a small herd of bighorn sheep from U.S. Forest Service lands in southeastern Wyoming if necessary to protect local sheep ranchers.

M. Noonan

Wyoming is hoping to start vaccinating bighorn sheep for pneumonia within the next few years.

A working group dedicated to curbing the spread of sheep diseases met last week in Casper, and participants said inoculation research is yielding promising results.

Doug McWhirter, a wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, is a member of the working group. He says bighorn sheep are doing well in many parts of Wyoming but that diseases are still a big threat.

Parts of the Shoshone National Forest in northwest Wyoming are now off-limits to domestic goats, which some people use to haul gear into the backcountry.

Forest officials announced the decision for pack goats Monday and say it will remain in effect through 2013.

The purpose is to protect wild bighorn sheep. Forest officials say there is increasing evidence that domestic sheep and goats can spread disease to bighorn sheep.

The Shoshone National Forest is home to one of the largest populations of bighorn sheep in the lower 48 states.