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What you describe here is horrid, having to kill animals to save others is maybe necessary, but a discouraging action to have to take. What I would object to out of this article, is the wholesale accusation of goats along with the sheep as a danger to these animals as wildlife biologists and land managers are almost always eager to do.
While there is a lot of information to indicate that sheep DO carry these pathogens, there is, as well, a paucity of research to indicate that goats do. As a point of fact, with the advent of the determination that mycoplasma ovipheumoniae is the ‘first cause’ of Bighorn Sheep pneumonia, goat packers like myself embarked on a project to have our animals tested. The question? Do our packgoats carry this pathogen? The testing of 563 animals failed to turn up even one that tested positive for Movi.
So the second question becomes, if our animals do not even carry the pathogen, and if we can test them to insure that they are disease-free, why in the world are we being restricted out of the forest? We shouldn’t be is the only answer.
I am a 75yo senior who uses goats to carry what I no longer can. Without my animals, I am washed up as a hiker. I DO NOT want to see that happen for no reason. And for now, there is NO REASON why I should not be able to access the forest with my animals.
A land of many uses. Right. I’m one of them!!
The problem with goats comes from the goats raised in the presence of domestic sheep from my understanding. The goats then start to carry the same disease causing organisms that lead to pneumonia. The big die off in Hells Canyon was started by a domestic goat in 1995 and was identified in that year. Land managers are sensitive to this concern. We later had a major die off again higher up the Canyon that destroyed a herd of over 125 wild sheep that occurred after I identified a goat grazing situation less than a air mile difference from them where 1500 domestic goats were being used to graze for weed control. This kind of thing makes it extremely difficult for land managers. I’m pretty sure that llama may be fine, but asking Dr Besser would be good. Washington State University is the best on wild sheep and domestic sheep disease research.
Your basic premise would be right if only the facts were right. In point of fact, almost all Pack Goats go directly from the breeder, to an isolated pen on the owners property. I personally know of no other goatpacker that raises sheep as well as goats. We have these animals to pack with, and that is what they are used for. Once my guys leave the breeder, they only know a couple or three others that they pack with, and live with for life.
Another very basic issue, is that the current pathogen of interest, mycoplasma ovipheumoniae in an experiential sampling of 570+ packgoats, was found in very, very few. My guys, for example, were a part of that study, and were test-negative. In point of fact #2, if my guys can be tested, and shown to be test-negative, they put NO Bighorn Sheep (BHS) at risk, even if they were to somehow get close to a BHS.
And another point, it has just been revealed that both bison and deer also carry Movi. This is a complex issue, but NOTHING about it would indicate that I pose a risk to BHS by taking my 4 boys into any wilderness area.
We are well familar with Dr. Besser’s research, and there are significant issues with it that we are addressing.
NAPgA, Past President
Thanks for your efforts to bring this plight of wild sheep conservation to light in this new Magazine, “Undark”, where as its founders state, is a publication where science collides with politics and culture.