The Alaska Board of Game meeting in Anchorage this week is drawing surprising testimony on sheep and cats.
That’s domestic sheep, and the risk of disease from a domestic animal reaching and ultimately wiping out Alaska’s Dall sheep and mountain goat populations.
And feral cats, which despite long being recognized as voracious predators of small game and birds, have devout cat lovers who’d like to fill the Alaska wilds with wild tabbies.
The sheep discussion is driven by several conservation groups including the Alaska Wild Sheep Foundation, which have tried to find a compromise with domestic raisers for several years, without success. The biggest concern is mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi), which causes usually fatal pneumonia in wild sheep.
There have been no outbreaks of M. ovi in Alaska, but 175 in the lower 48, with horrific die-off’s among bighorn sheep herds. But M. ovi is present among some of the 1500 or so domestic sheep and goats
One survey found at least 4 percent with the domestic animals in Alaska today carry the disease. They are carriers and not sickened by the disease, but wild populations like Alaska’s are
A threat to Alaska’s 45,000 Dall sheep, 27,000 mountain goats and 4,000 muskoxen is no small concern, impacting not just hunters, but the entire nature tourism industry, valued at up to $40 million a year.
The Wild Sheep Foundation has made the amazing offer to pay for testing, about $50 per animal, for every domestic animal in the state.
It seems most of the domestic sheep and goat raisers in Alaska are gathering before the BOG, and have adamantly voiced both their love of their animals and their hate for any government restriction, including measures like quarantine for import that are the norm in lower 48 states.
The feral cat debate is around competing proposals, one which would make feral cats illegal and fair game to kill any time, and another which promotes capturing, neutering and releasing feral cats back into the wild. The first proposal is backed by most wildlife agencies and conservation groups, while the second proposal is supported by the Humane Society.
Other proposals of more direct impact to Alaska hunters including how draw hunting permits are allocated between residents and non-residents; rules on flying and hunting the same day; and who under rules of kinship can hunt without a guide in Alaska.
The board is continuing to accept public testimony Monday and will begin to deliberate actions later this week.
The proposals are comprehensive. For a complete list of all proposals the board, you can find the proposal book online at:
All testimony and deliberations of the BOG are live streamed online at the BOG home page: