- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

MELROSE, Mont. (AP) - Montana officials have released nine bighorn sheep ewes into the East Pioneer Mountains near Melrose as part of a statewide program to relocate up to 50 sheep from the Missouri Breaks to various places around the state.

The sheep were taken from the Missouri Breaks north of Winifred and added to part of an existing herd in the Pioneers.

The release area was restricted to the Maiden Rock fishing access site on the Big Hole River.

“We don’t want an overabundance of sheep,” said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones in Bozeman. “We’ve had unsuccessful transplants. We wanted to be very cautious.”

Wildlife officials say overpopulation can stress habitats and increase the chance of die-offs among the disease-prone animals, the Montana Standard reported Tuesday (https://tinyurl.com/m4l7s6e).

Initially, biologists overseeing the program recommended that the sheep be relocated to South Dakota, saying it was too difficult to find suitable habitat in Montana. But a citizen commission rejected that plan, arguing the animals should stay in Montana.

Transplanting excess sheep out of state used to be allowed. That changed in 2009 following hunter complaints when 60 sheep were transplanted to Utah.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission in November approved the recent release, and landowners were notified of the plan.

Experts will observe the transition and use the information they gather when planning further relocations. All of the sheep were fitted with radio collars to help with monitoring.

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Information from: The Montana Standard, https://www.mtstandard.com


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