Domestic sheep grazing could spread deadly disease

January 24, 2019

Guardians and allies filed suit today to save the bighorn sheep of the Rio Grande National Forest from domestic sheep grazing. Domestic sheep carry a pathogen that kills bighorns and reduces lamb survival rates for years. The disease is especially deadly because bighorns and domestic sheep are mutually attracted to one another, and once disease is in one bighorn herd, it can easily be transmitted to other herds. There is no cure or vaccine.

The lawsuit targets the Wishbone allotment near Creede, Colo., a new allotment created after the Forest Service determined domestic sheep grazing in the adjacent Snow Mesa area placed bighorns at too high of a risk. But this new location is also risky and does nothing to reduce the risk to bighorns—in fact, telemetry data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife clearly show overlap between bighorn sheep and the new allotment.

The Service “merely moved the domestics to an adjacent area that is still right by bighorn herds. They then fudged their analysis by coming up with these fairy-tale reasons why the risk would be lower in this adjacent area,” said Guardians’ Greg Dyson. “If the agencies tasked with doing so won’t protect Colorado’s official state animal, we’re here to make sure they do.”

Read the press release.

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