Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials expressed concern about the increasingly common practice of using domestic sheep or goats for weed control and wildfire mitigation, as well as the threat posed by hobby flocks of the species. If domestic sheep and goat commingle with bighorn sheep, they may transmit pathogens to the wild sheep that can result in all-age die-offs and low lamb recruitment for decades.
“It only takes one [bighorn] sheep that contracts a disease to hinder an entire herd,” said Chase Rylands, wildlife officer out of Estes Park.
This threat is exacerbated across western Colorado where the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management permit bands of 800-2000 domestic sheep to graze in bighorn sheep range. Numerous die-offs have been documented throughout the state, yet the practice of renewing high-risk grazing permits continues. Read more about the concerns of CPW managers here.