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5 more bighorns killed in West Riverside in effort to stop pneumonia

5 more bighorns killed in West Riverside in effort to stop pneumonia

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State wildlife officials killed five more sick bighorn sheep in West Riverside on Friday, and planned to continue attempts to stop a disease outbreak through the weekend.

A herd of 22 sick bighorn sheep moved back into residential yards at the base of Woody Mountain, where they've been congregating for months. Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks technicians were able to tranquilize five and remove them for mercy killing.

"Most of those sheep were coughing and unstable on their feet," FWP spokeswoman Vivica Crowser said on Friday. "But there were still quite a few that are spry and wary."

Crowser advised residents to leave the sheep alone and call for a game warden to handle any infected or dead animals. The wild sheep are dying from a highly infectious strain of pneumonia. While it is not transmittable to humans or pets, the bighorns are still unpredictable and unsafe to approach.

FWP technicians have killed 12 bighorns since the disease outbreak was first reported on Tuesday. An aerial survey found about 65 sheep living on or around Woody Mountain, which stands between the Marshall Mountain Ski Area and the Blackfoot River north of West Riverside. About 160 to 180 bighorns live in the mountains on either side of the river north of Bonner.

A similar outbreak killed 77 bighorns in a herd of nearly 225 animals south of Darby last fall.

U.S. Forest Service and Nature Conservancy lands around Woody Mountain were closed to the public on Friday and will remain so indefinitely so FWP hunters can safely examine and cull the remaining infected sheep there, Crowser said.

The dead sheep are being examined in a mobile veterinary lab to confirm the disease diagnosis.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

 

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WEST RIVERSIDE - A pneumonia outbreak may spell doom for many of the bighorn sheep frequenting the West Riverside community east of Missoula. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks hunters have killed seven sick sheep since Tuesday and may have to take many more of the roughly 65 bighorns on Woody Mountain to interrupt spread of the highly infectious disease.

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