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A Veterinarian’s Perspective on Oregon’s Bighorn Sheep Relocation Process

This footage of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife capturing and relocating bighorn sheep by helicopter shows the extent of effort that goes into managing the state’s wildlife.

Bighorn sheep are carefully managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. A great deal of effort and funding goes into capturing and relocating members of different herds from around the state by helicopter, as well as monitoring those herds for diseases and illnesses.

Contributions by hunters and conservationists make these efforts possible. This year, 26 bighorn sheep from the I-84 herd were moved near the Dalles to improve populations of sheep in the Lakeview district.

Julia Burco has participated as a veterinarian in these translocation projects for the past six years. Burco is one of the state’s few veterinarians that treats big game animals out in the wild. These projects not only encourage the improvement of genetic diversity, but allow veterinarians like Burco to screen for, treat, and monitor the spread of diseases in big game populations.

Burco
Burco in the upper Owyhee Canyon in Eastern Oregon. Few people have the opportunity to see this area unless flying over it.

In addition to the 26 sheep that were relocated, Burco says,

“We sampled another 60 or so sheep in southeastern Oregon to screen for disease, predominantly pneumonia pathogens, because we have had some sick sheep in the area and Nevada recently had a horrible pneumonia problem in one of their neighboring herds where they had to do a complete depopulation.”

SheepChopper2
Bighorn translocation project photo from 2010

Burco assists with collaring the relocated sheep, taking nasal, tonsillar swabs, fecal and blood samples.

“I’m also there to make sure I reduce the stress of capture or treat any medical conditions that arise during these events.”

SheepMedicine

The event of capturing and relocating sheep is carried out by a crew of roughly two dozen or more people. A majority of the funding for the operation comes from sheep foundations and hunters that bid on the opportunity to hunt them.

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A Veterinarian’s Perspective on Oregon’s Bighorn Sheep Relocation Process