Can We Prevent Bighorn Sheep from Contracting Pneumonia? With Your Help, Yes!

For bighorn sheep in Montana, communicable diseases—including pneumonia—are a huge problem. The diseases are highly contagious and often fatal, leading to slow and painful deaths. The situation is complicated because scientists don’t fully understand how these diseases spread.

Another problem can be the dating scene. Bighorn rams roam far and wide in search of a mate, often onto public lands where domestic sheep grazing is permitted. Entire herds of bighorn sheep are at risk of contracting deadly diseases if they come into contact with those domestic sheep. One recent study found a single domestic sheep caused more than 86 bighorn deaths  between 1997 to 2000.

A bighorn ram in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest Entrant Cal Bebee.

A bighorn ram in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest Entrant Cal Bebee.

Fortunately, we have chance to resolve these conflicts. Just as we have done in the past for bison, we now have the chance to “retire” domestic sheep grazing privileges in key areas adjacent to bighorn sheep habitat, including two critical allotments spanning 12,000 acres in southwest Montana. The two bighorn herds that are adjacent to these domestic sheep allotments have suffered two 75-percent reductions in their populations in the last thirty years due to disease outbreaks. Retiring grazing privileges would be a huge improvement for the health of local bighorn herds.

To take advantage of this rare opportunity, NWF must raise $50,000 to “adopt” the necessary land under our Adopt a Wildlife Acre program. It works out to just $4.16 per acre.

AdoptNow-150x26-GreenYour tax-free donation will help give bighorn sheep more room to roam, and protect imperiled wildlife and wild places across the country.

UPDATE: This piece has been changed to reflect the myriad diseases spread by domestic sheep, and not just pneumonia.

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