Wildlife Managers Will Begin Euthanizing Sheep This Week

George Jefferson has lived in the Naches area his entire life, at times, he likes to come out to the hills to go sheep spotting.

However, over the last few months, Jefferson says it's become harder and harder to spot them.

"I went up to jumpoff today and spotted about 7 ewes and lambs," said Jefferson, "Last year, I saw 50 to 100 in there."

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife says that decrease is due to an outbreak of a disease amongst the herd which causes Pneumonia.

Although the disease cant be transmitted to humans or domestic livestock, wildlife officials say the disease has wiped out most of the bighorn sheep in the Naches area.

In order to protect the remaining herds, officials have decided to euthanize almost all the sheep in the area by hunting them.

Biologists say there is no known cure, or vaccine to help prevent the spread of the disease.

They say once the animal is diagnosed with it, it has almost zero percent chance of surviving.

"Even if you could treat them, trying to catch every last one of them and treat them so they don't reinfect each other would be nearly impossible," said Ted Clausing from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, "It's hard to catch them in the wild country that they're in."

A similar operation to this was conducted in 2010, wildlife managers were able to stop the spread of the disease then after about 100 sheep were killed.

George Jefferson hopes the same result comes from this.

"I just hope it don't kill them all," said Jefferson, "And some of them survive and start the herd going again."

Fish and wildlife experts believe the cause of the outbreak may be from wild sheep coming in contact with domestic sheep and goats that act as carriers for the disease.