Sheep vs. sheep in Hells Canyon

  To protect bighorn sheep, the Forest Service has decided to kick the domestic variety out of Hells Canyon National Recreation Area - again. The agency decided in 1994 to shut down three grazing allotments that straddle the Oregon-Idaho border. It feared that bighorn sheep reintroduced into the area were succumbing to a deadly bacteria, Pasteurella, carried by the domestic sheep. But forest officials backed off after receiving strong opposition from the ranching community, which has used the recreation area for more than 100 years. Now, with a lawsuit filed by environmentalists hanging over its head, the agency has changed its mind again and decided to remove the sheep by fall 1996.


"We haven't been able to prove without doubt that bighorn get the disease directly from sheep, but we decided they still need to go," says Myrna Evans, a spokeswoman for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. "They need to get the sheep out of there now," insists Ric Bailey of the Hells Canyon Preservation Council, whose group sued the Forest Service.


Bailey says Oregon state wildlife officials recently found two dead bighorn rams that apparently died from the disease after going nose-to-nose with domestic ewes. The council, says Bailey, will seek a court order in early November to force an immediate removal of the sheep. - Paul Larmer


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