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Bighorn Sheep On Antelope Island Face ‘Lethal’ Removal After Disease Kills Rest Of Herd

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Dozens of bighorn sheep typically roam the island, but a respiratory disease has killed off most of the herd, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials said Thursday.

Spokesman Mark Hadley said the roughly 150-sheep population has been whittled down to 26 since the fall, and the division planned to “lethally remove” the rest fearing they all carry the disease.

“They’d probably have to be shot,” Hadley acknowledged. “That would be the most humane, most effective, the quickest and easiest way to remove the few animals that are left.”
Hadley said the disease was a “painful way to die.”

“They have a very, very difficult time breathing,” he said. “It’s just really a painful and a rough way to go.”

The bighorn sheep on Antelope Island have contracted respiratory disease. Watch the video for more information.

Posted by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Thursday, January 10, 2019

Wildlife officers have used the island since 1997 to build the bighorn sheep population and then distribute it around the state.

That would be impossible if sick animals passed on the disease to healthy ones, Hadley said.

(Courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

“What we want to do is bring healthy sheep back on the island and we’re going to have to start the herd again,” he said.

Hadley said new bighorn sheep would likely be brought to the island sometime next fall.

The disease, he said, is not able to spread to other species or humans.

It remained unclear how the herd got sick in the first place.

“Sheep are like known to be very disease-carrying animals,” shrugged Alex Parker, who duck hunts around the island. “It’s a huge issue.”

Parker said he understood why wildlife officers were taking the steps they were.

“You want what’s best for those animals in their natural environment,” Parker said.

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