Hunters eliminate half of infected Tendoy bighorns
Montana’s controversial plan to eliminate the floundering Tendoy bighorn sheep herd through the sale of special over-the-counter tags appears to be a success. While it is only the beginning of the season, nearly half of the sheep have been harvested, leading wildlife officials to believe that only a few could remain after the season ends Nov. 29.
The decision to hold the hunt came after months of deliberation as Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) discussed the impact of pneumonia on the heavily impacted herd. Once the herd is eradicated, officials plan to reintroduce healthy wild sheep to the area in an attempt to rebuild wild herds though whether the new bighorn sheep will survive is unknown.
Regardless, the support for the hunt – and the number of tags sold – illustrate the rationale behind holding it as funds used to buy tags will be utilized across the state for wildlife management and programs like the one in place for the bighorn sheep. As of Thursday, 311 tags had been sold, with 25 of the tags going to nonresidents, according to the Independent Record. While the official plan earmarked two years for the elimination hunt, biologists believe that this year will be the only one that they need.
“If at best we’re down to a handful of sheep, there wouldn’t be the interest or need to have 300 people down here,” MFWP biologist Craig Fager told the Independent Record. He adds that straggler sheep would likely be eliminated by the MFWP.
So far, 10 bighorns have been taken by bows and eight by firearms, including 12 ewes, two lambs and four rams. Anyone interested in tracking the harvest can monitor it on MFWP’s website at http://fwp.mt.gov/.