The spread of respiratory disease has devastated a wild herd of bighorn sheep in the Cariboo area and concerned groups have scheduled a public meeting to help remedy the situation in Clinton on Feb. 7.
The meeting, which is being organized by the Wild Sheep Society of B.C. (WSSBC), will be held at the Clinton Memorial Hall from 7 to 9 p.m.
The focus of the meeting is about getting the message out that when wild sheep come in contact with domestic sheep, the wild sheep are at a “high risk” of contracting deadly disease, says WSSBC president Mike Southin.
“We need to get some pressure to try to keep domestics out of areas that traditionally support wild sheep.”
The Chasm bighorn sheep herd in question has dwindled from more than 100 animals to about 20 because a local rancher and the provincial government did not act fast enough in erecting a separation fence when the problem started a few years ago, say people involved.
“We’re trying to get some legislation in place to stop this stuff from happening,” says Southin.
A local resident, Tamara Giles, is concerned the remaining sheep at the Chasm will be culled. She believes the WSSBC wants to convince people that killing them is the best way to remedy the situation.
Giles, a guide-outfitter in Clinton, has a Facebook page dedicated to the issue. She says eliminating the remaining herd is a “poor precedent to set.”
In response to Giles’ concern, Southin admits killing the remaining herd is an option, but says it’s “unlikely” it will happen.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the ministry who ‘s really got the nerve to do that. But [shooting them] doesn’t really resolve the issue because more sheep are going to move into that area and as long as the domestics are there, it doesn’t solve it.”
The BC Wildlife Federation, Clinton and District Outdoor Sportsman Association, guide-outfitters of the Thompson, and the Wildlife Stewardship Council, are also participating in the town hall meeting, where “subject matter experts” will be brought in to talk about wild and domestic sheep separation.
“For nearly a century wild sheep in B.C., and all across North America, have experienced massive die-offs due to interactions between domestic and wild sheep,” reads a press release from the WSSBC. “Domestic sheep, goats and even lamas carry pathogens, which they are immune to, but are deadly to wild sheep…. Parts of B.C., such as the Cariboo, East Kootenay, Okanagan and Thompson, are all areas of high risk.”
Southin says the WSSBC is planning more town-hall meetings in other communities in the future to educate people on the issue.
“The sheep are dying and there’s no reason for it. It’s kind of silly. We’re trying to get through to government and they just seem to be sitting on their heels.”