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BOZEMAN — Montana State University and the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks are beginning a six-year study to try to determine why the bighorn sheep population is so low in Montana.

MSU ecologist Bob Garrott says the $1.2 million research project will investigate the issue from all possible angles, ranging from the molecular level to the ecosystem, to provide state wildlife officials with the information they need to enhance bighorn sheep conservation and management.

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Garrott says pneumonia is one factor that harms bighorn sheep populations, but genetics and general herd health could be others.

Montana has 5,500 bighorn sheep in 48 herds, but nearly three-fourths of the herds have fewer than 100 animals.

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