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Domestic Sheep Present Potential Danger To Bighorns In Great Basin

"USGS ovis canadensis GNP bighorn rams 0" by Kim Keating, USGS photo - USGS Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Bighorn Sheep in Nevada's Great Basin

One of Nevada's last remaining populations of bighorn sheep could be in danger, according to wildlife officials.

Grazing domestic sheep near the Great Basin National Park have the potential to carry diseases that the wild, bighorn sheep are not used to.

"What we've learned is that over three-quarters of those bighorn sheep home ranges are on active domestic sheep allotments, and that's a big issue because of the disease domestic sheep can pass on to bighorn," said Bryan Hamilton, wildlife biologist.

According to Hamilton, domestic sheep are built to survive with diseases, living in close proximity to one another and not get sick. Bighorn sheep, however, are just the opposite.

"On a statewide and regional level, these disease outbreaks have wiped out entire populations of bighorns, it's truly catastrophic when it happens," Hamilton said.

Outside of Alaska, Nevada has more bighorn sheep than any other state.

Bryan Hamilton, Great Basin National Park wildlife biologist

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.