(KMVT/KSVT) The Idaho Department of Fish and Game removed the last remaining bighorn sheep from the Game Management Unit 54 in the Big Cottonwood Wildlife Management Area in the South Hills.
According to a news release issued Thursday, Fish and Game said two ewes and two young rams that were believed to be the last remaining sheep from the South Hills population in the Game Management Unit 54 were euthanized to prevent the spread of disease.
Fish and Game works to keep separation between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep and goats. The domesticated animals can carry respiratory pathogens that can kill bighorn sheep. These pathogens kill bighorn sheep and last for decades after an initial die-off.
After die-off in 1989 and subsequent decrease in population, biologists feared the few remaining bighorn sheep would travel to adjacent populations and spread the deadly respiratory pathogen.
To protect hundreds of bighorn sheep in Southern Idaho, the decision was made to remove the small number of remnant bighorn sheep in the South Hills population.
Tags were issued in 2017 and 2018 to allow hunters to harvest the older age class rams in this population prior to the final effort to remove the remaining bighorn sheep.
Biological samples were taken from the four recently removed bighorn sheep for testing and the meat was processed and delivered to local food banks.