Sheep die-off prompts conference call to close hunting district | TSLN.com

Sheep die-off prompts conference call to close hunting district

Montana's Fish & Wildlife Commission will meet via a telephone conference call Monday, March 23 at 8:30 a.m. to consider an emergency closure of a bighorn sheep hunting district near Gardiner due to a recent disease-related die-off.

Commissioners will consider closing bighorn sheep hunting district 305, near Gardiner, which suffered a pneumonia die-off that began late last year. At least 30 percent of the herd, and 40 percent or more of the mature rams, have died. This winter, FWP documented a loss of a minimum of 30 sheep found mostly in the Gardiner and Cinnabar areas.

In response, officials are seeking to close the 2015 bighorn sheep season in hunting district 305 this year and preclude hunters from applying for permits in the hunting district.

Baring another disease outbreak, or other unforeseen events, hunting district 305 would reopen to hunting when the population recovers.

The teleconference will originate at FWP Helena headquarters, 1420 East Sixth Ave. Public comment will only be taken at this location.

For the upcoming season, officials offered one legal ram permit in the district. Should the season there be closed, anyone who already applied for hunting district 305's permit will be offered the opportunity to apply elsewhere or be given a refund. Last year about 100 hunters applied for the district's lone permit. The deadline to apply for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison permits is May 1.

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For the agenda and additional information, visit FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov, then click "Commission Links."

FWP ensures its meetings are fully accessible to those with special needs. To request arrangements call FWP at 406-444-3186.

–Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks