- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - Montana wildlife officials are considering a plan to kill a herd of 50 bighorn sheep whose reproduction has been stunted by a 1997 pneumonia outbreak. They would then transplant healthy sheep into the area west of Lima along the Idaho border.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet via video conference on Thursday to discuss possible ways to deal with the bighorn herd in the Tendoy Mountains, The Billings Gazette (https://bit.ly/1xhS7Tv ) reports.

The Montana Wild Sheep Foundation supports the plan said Jim Weatherly, the group’s executive director, after hearing that Utah and Nevada had undertaken similar efforts.

Wildlife management section chief John Vore said an environmental assessment and public comment would precede any action.

The Tendoy herd was transplanted into the mountain range in 1985 from a herd near Deer Lodge. The bighorn herd grew to about 150 animals before the 1997 pneumonia outbreak.

Getting rid of the remaining members of the Tendoy herd and bringing in new sheep might be a better choice than continuing to try and supplement a dying herd with more transplanted sheep, Vore said. The herd produces only one to three lambs per year.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioners are being asked to consider ways hunters could help remove the sheep, from creating an over-the-counter tag for the hunting district that includes the Tendoy herd or re-drawing the district to exclude another herd that lives mainly in Idaho but migrates into Montana. Those sheep are not infected.

It also wants to put into place an option to capture some sheep for donation to a research facility studying pneumonia outbreaks in sheep. However, no facility has been found.

Vore said it would take about two years for hunters to remove all the sheep from the area.

The state would seek to transplant bighorn sheep from herds that have a history of migrating from high elevations in the winter.

The goal is to have a herd of about 125 sheep in the Tendoy Mountains, Vore said.

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Information from: The Billings Gazette, https://www.billingsgazette.com

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