Oregon cancels two bighorn sheep hunts due to disease outbreak

This closure impacts 3 total sheep tags

Brady Miller

The following is an urgent press release from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Another sheep herd severely impacted by pneumonia.

SALEM, Ore.—ODFW is canceling both Lookout Mt. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunts in northeastern Oregon. Hunters will not be able to apply for or draw a tag to hunt bighorns in this herd during the fall 2020 season.

The canceled hunts are in the Lookout Mt. Unit east of Baker City, Ore. where a respiratory disease was found in bighorn sheep in mid-February 2020. Testing has revealed that the primary cause of the disease outbreak is a new strain of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae which causes severe pneumonia in bighorns. No effective treatment is available for wild populations.

Two hunts are being canceled—564A1 Lookout Mountain No. 1 and 564A2 Lookout Mountain No. 2, affecting a total of three tags (2 resident, 1 non-resident). This hunt area will also no longer be available to the Auction Tag holder and the Raffle Tag holder.

Intensive monitoring of this population by local district wildlife biologist Brian Ratliff indicates a high proportion of the herd is infected, with an increase in mortality also observed.

“The recovery of bighorn sheep populations in Oregon has been a great success story of wildlife management. This type of a disease outbreak is something ODFW works hard to prevent and is a concerning setback, given the history of how this disease affects bighorn sheep,” said Ratliff. “As these hunts are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hunters, the prudent response is to cancel these two hunts, focus on recovering this bighorn herd and hopefully providing an opportunity for our hunters in the future.”

These hunts will no longer be available for application through ODFW’s licensing system. Hunters who have applied for these hunts will be contacted by ODFW with their options which include editing applications or requesting an application fee refund. Hunters can adjust their application through their online account (under Recreational Portfolio/Controlled Hunts; see how-to online) through June 1, 2020.

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