No More Butting Heads: NWF’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program Protects Key Habitat For Bighorn Sheep

The National Wildlife Federation’s most recent Adopt-A-Wildlife-Acre work has focused on resolving conflicts between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep that graze on public lands in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Domestic sheep frequently harbor a type of pneumonia that is easily transmitted to bighorn sheep and often results in large-scale die-offs.

Entire herds have been decimated by this transmission. The disease can even become endemic in the bighorns that do not die outright, leading to high lamb mortality and a continuing downward spiral in the bighorn population.

bighorn sheep
Bighorn sheep. Photo by Steve Woodruff
These disease issues have caused wholesale declines in bighorn sheep herds across the West. It is estimated that in the last century, bighorn sheep populations have declined from 70,000 animals to as low as 30,000.

At the end of April, NWF completed two important grazing retirement agreements in southeastern Idaho that will significantly reduce the disease risk that bighorn sheep face in that area. While all of NWF’s previous retirements have occurred on National Forest lands, our latest Adopt-A Wildlife-Acre project is on the Howe Peak allotment which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Howe Peak
Howe Peak. Photo by Matt Lavin
According to NWF Regional Executive Director Tom France, “The Howe Peak retirement establishes an important precedent as BLM manages many domestic sheep allotments that overlap key parts of bighorn sheep range in many western states. We are encouraged the BLM recognizes grazing retirements can work for ranchers as well as for wildlife”.

Join_NWF_ButtonHelp NWF continue our efforts to protect bighorn sheep herds across the west.