In Dec. of 2020, the Montana FWP established a new bighorn sheep herd in the Little Belt Mountains. This week some sad news came in from the area. Several of the sheep have tested positive for pneumonia.
Nine bighorn sheep from the reintroduced herd have already died from the outbreak. Likewise, many other sheep seem to be showing the symptoms of pneumonia as well. When bighorn sheep get pneumonia they typically end up dying from it. In 2019, Antelope Island in Utah lost its entire herd to a strain of pneumonia. You can read about the loss of that herd by clicking here.
Bighorn sheep were historically common within the Little Belt Mountain range. However, they disappeared around the early 1900s due to disease and overhunting. Last January, we covered the reintroduction here at Ehuntr. You can read that article by clicking here. During the reintroduction, FWP employees and volunteers worked together to capture 49 bighorn sheep from the Missouri Breaks area. After capturing them they released the sheep near the Judith River. All the sheep released were equipped with GPS tracking collars. These collars were how FWP officials first began to notice signs of pneumonia spreading. Likewise, FWP officials used these collars to locate the nine sheep that have died so far.
Over the last decade, Montana has had several herds die off due to the spreading of pneumonia. It was the FWP’s hope that the sheep in the Little Belts would fair better than other herds. You can read more about the Little Belt Herd and its struggles by clicking here. Likewise, you can read more Montana-related hunting news by clicking here. Thanks for reading!