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Hundreds in Kelowna for Wild Sheep Society convention

KELOWNA – Separation is part of the solution to a problem that is killing plenty of British Columbia sheep.

The Wild Sheep Society of B.C.’s annual convention kicked off in Kelowna on Friday. Organizers say the focus is on how to keep wild sheep separated from domestic sheep, in order to prevent the spread of a deadly respiratory disease.

“It can be an all ages die off and up to 70 to 80 percent of the herd can die,” says Wildlife Biologist Jeremy Ayotte.

“We know that its transmitted through nose to nose contact and we know that we can control it by creating separation between the two species.”

More than 300 people including hunters, biologists and conservationists attended the convention and fundraiser.

“A lot of the funds that we raise here will go back into mitigation projects and that and lobbying government to try and change some legislation or regulations in regards to that transmission form domestic sheep to wild sheep,” says Chris Barker, past president of the Wild Sheep Society of B.C.

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The disease is a type of pneumonia which can kill most of a herd. Barker says it has a major impact on the province’s sheep hunting industry, which is estimated to have about a $25 million impact on the B.C. economy.

“Each one of these sheep is worth about $15,000 if you had to put a value on it,” says Ayotte.

He says the government has indicated they’re looking into new legislation, but it’s not clear what that will look like or when it can be implemented.

“We don’t really have an idea on what [the government is] bringing in for regulatory changes, so it will be interesting to see what comes out and if it’s going to have a positive effect in what we are trying to do with our wild sheep populations in the province,” says Barker.

For the time being, the society is raising money for projects like fence building and habitat improvement, all while raising awareness about the issue.