KAMLOOPS — British Columbia is home to the largest, and most diverse populations of wild sheep, compared to anywhere else in North America. This weekend, all things wild sheep were celebrated at the annual BC Wild Sheep Society Convention, held here in Kamloops.
WATCH: Full story by Adam Donnelly
It’s an event which allows people passionate about the wild ungulates to gather, and share knowledge and experiences related to the animals. One of the society’s directors, Teodd Blewett, believes he knows why: “I think for a lot of guys… sheep hunting is quite challenging, and it takes you to spots that are far back into the mountains. Places that a lot of people don’t get to see.” Another director with the society, Chris Barker, says people who are passionate about wild sheep are unique: “I always say [sheep people] are the nuttiest bunch out there,” Barker told CFJC Today, “but also the most passionate.”
The convention is a chance for the society, and it’s diverse membership, to address any challenges or threats to wild sheep populations in the province. According to one workshop, one of the greatest threats is the transmission of disease from domestic sheep to their wild sheep cousins. According to Helen Schwantje, BC's Wildlife Veterinarian, “Big horn sheep, wild sheep in general, evolved in isolated, small groups, and diseases are not so much part of their landscape.” This isolation has made them more susceptible to diseases which domestic sheep are immune to, but still carry.
“[Wild and domesticated sheep] are very similar, in fact they can actually cross breed. They’re attracted to each other, particularly at certain times of the year,” Schwantje explained. “Because they are similar species, they tend to aggregate together, they are attracted to each other, and transmission can occur quite easily if they share feed, water, or simply nose-to-nose contact.”
Like many wildlife species, interaction with humans poses one of the greatest challenges for wild sheep populations in BC.
The Wild Sheep Society of BC is focused on conservation of sheep thorough the province, which is why the convention also acts as a fundraiser for the programs the society helps run. “The money’s going to go back onto the ground for sheep conservation throughout the province. It could be for thin-horned sheep in northern BC, it could be for domestic sheep issues, where we’re doing mitigation. [We’re] focused on conservation and putting that money on the ground,” said Barker.
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