By Amy Trinidad
September 2005 - Fred Fulstone, sheep producer from Smith, Nev., won a battle on July 1, 2005, in the much larger war against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep. Fulstone was able to turn his 16,000 ewes and lambs out to summer feed on a land allotment in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range ? which he stood to loose earlier this spring ? with the help of the University of Nevada, Reno; Anette Rink, DVM, from the Animal Disease and Food Safety Laboratory at the Nevada Department of Agriculture; and the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI).
?Although we are allowed back on the range, there are a number of restrictions we must follow,? says Fulstone. ?They (California Fish and Game Commission) are continuously surveilling our sheep, making it really tough for us. It?s like a form of harassment.?
The Fulstones have agreed to all of the requests made by the California Fish and Game Commission to help protect the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep. Those include:
In addition, the amount of time Fulstone is allowed to graze his sheep on the allotment has been cut in half. He typically is allowed on the land for 90 days; however, this year it will only be 50 days. Thankfully, the U.S. Forest Service has offered him another place for his sheep to graze for agreeing to the reduction of time on his original allotment of land.
Hudson Glimp, Ph.D., extension sheep specialist and coordinator of the Rafter 7 Ranch Merino sheep breeding and education program at the University of Nevada, Reno, partly attributes this success to those experts who presented at the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep roundtable discussion held at the University of Nevada, Reno in February and to those in the audience, which included a number of sheep producers.
?The U.S. Forest Service has been extremely cooperative with us on this project,? says Glimp, ?The Forest Service told the California Fish and Game Commission they needed to come up with more information backing their request before they would not allow Fulstone on his allotments.?
Also contributing to the effort was ASI, which became the political driving force behind the success.
?We applied pressure from the administration down to get those sheep turned back out on their allotment,? says Tom McDonnell, director of national resources and policy for ASI.
The reasons the California Fish and Game Commission is requesting the removal of domestic sheep from specific allotments in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is because the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep are an endangered species and they believe domestic sheep will transfer pasteurella haemolytica to the bighorn sheep.
Hudson explains that pasteurella is a stress-related disease and that the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep population is already infected with it. The reasons they develop pneumonia is because the bighorn sheep become stressed from poor habitat, weather, predators, nutrient deficiencies or the removal from other locations.
?There has been no documented die-off in the natural state from the physical contact between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep,? he says.
In addition, there is research that has been conducted by Rink which doesn?t support the belief that Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep are genetically different from other bighorn herds, disqualifying them from the endangered species list.
?Rink is in need of four more Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep DNA samples from the California Fish and Game Commission to complete her research,? says Glimp, ?Although they have agreed to provide these samples, we haven?t received them yet.?
In the meantime, the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep are suffering major losses from the severe winter weather found in the mountain range and Fulstone is doing all he can to keep his sheep on his allotments, while cooperating with the California Fish and Game Commission.
?We have bent over backwards to please them,? says Fulstone. ?However, our last resort is to rent a helicopter so that we can confirm if there are any bighorn sheep left high-up on the allotment and if so, how many.?
Fulstone says he is willing to pay the money for the helicopter. He has requested that the commission pay for half of it; however, they haven?t been cooperative.