At least 30 percent of the Gardiner bighorn sheep herd and 40 percent or more of the mature rams have died this winter from pneumonia.
The die-off has prompted Montana's Fish and Wildlife Commission to meet via a telephone conference call at 8:30 a.m. Monday to consider an emergency closure of bighorn sheep hunting in the district, Hunting District 305.
This winter, FWP documented a minimum loss of 30 sheep found mostly in the Gardiner and Cinnabar areas.
For the upcoming season, one legal ram permit was offered in the district. Should the season there be closed, anyone who already applied for HD 305's permit will be offered the opportunity to apply elsewhere or be given a refund. Last year about 100 hunters applied for the district's lone permit. The deadline to apply for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison permits is May 1.
The teleconference will originate at FWP Helena headquarters, 1420 East Sixth Ave. Public comment will only be taken in Helena.