WDFW to capture bighorn sheep for monitoring and management


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Bighorn sheep head in profile
Photo by WDFW

News release

Jennifer Johnson, Communications, 509-864-1973

YAKIMA – The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) will be capturing bighorn sheep via aircraft from Feb. 15 to 18 in Yakima Canyon and Cleman Mountain as part of ongoing efforts to monitor the Umtanum/Selah Butte and Cleman Mountain herds. Captured bighorn will be deployed with GPS collars and then released to help WDFW learn more about how groups of sheep interact with each other and their habitat.

“Bighorn sheep will be captured by a professional aerial team working with WDFW wildlife biologists to deploy net traps from low flying helicopters,” said Erin Wampole, WDFW district wildlife biologist. “This is a routine method for capturing sheep safely. The welfare of the animals and the people working with them is the agency’s number one priority during these operations.”

Bighorn sheep conservation in Washington is challenged by outbreaks of pneumonia. Data collected by GPS collars can help WDFW better understand how the sheep use their habitats and the potential for groups of bighorn to be exposed to or spread Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae or “Movi,” the pathogen responsible for causing bighorn sheep pneumonia. These captures are part of a five-year study to evaluate management of the disease.

Pneumonia outbreaks can result in bighorn sheep of all ages dying, with subsequent outbreaks commonly causing additional mortality, especially in lambs.

“Conducting disease testing and fitting sheep with GPS collars helps us understand how infections transfer between bighorn sheep social groups and where wild sheep may be vulnerable to contact with domestic sheep and goats,” said Wampole. “Ultimately this data is vital to improving our ability to manage outbreaks in the populations.”

WDFW will deploy approximately 60 collars in the Umtanum/Selah Butte and Cleman Mountain herds. People living or traveling through the area may notice a low flying helicopter while the work is underway.

WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Request this information in an alternative format or language at wdfw.wa.gov/accessibility/requests-accommodation, 833-855-1012, TTY (711), or CivilRightsTeam@dfw.wa.gov.