Proposal to protect wild sheep could negatively impact local, domesticated herds
Milking dairy goats is a full-time job Mike Pendergrast never really pictured for himself; his wife got him into it.
"She asked me one morning if I wanted a latte. I turned around and there was a goat named 'Latte' and that’s what started it,” he said.
Fifteen years later, the couple owns about 40 goats they use for a “herd sharing” operation to provide raw milk for other families. They said their farm could be in jeopardy because of a proposal before the Board of Game.
Proposal 64 calls to “eliminate sheep and goats from the ‘Clean List’ and require a permit for possession with stipulations if located within 15 air miles of all sheep habitat."
Animals on the Clean List are the only ones people are legally allowed to own as pets.
"It would make us all into criminals essentially,” Crosby said. "Because according to the Fish and Game website, no animal that is not on the Clean List may be possessed, imported, exported, bought or sold in the state of Alaska,” she said.
While Proposal 64 states, "Online permitting has become mainstream and is simple,” Crosby said that’s not the case. Regulation 5 AAC 92.029 counters if a specifies is not on the list “The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is forbidden from issuing a permit authorizing anyone to possess it as a pet."
The Alaska Wild Sheep Foundation authored the proposal. The group’s president, Kevin Kehoe, said it’s aimed at protecting the health of the wild stock of Dall sheep, musk ox and mountain goats.
Alaska has 45,000 Dall sheep, about one-quarter of the population in North America.
"Right now, the conservative estimate on what their annual value is to the state, hunting and tourism is about $20 to $40 million a year is the financial value. Their true value is incalculable,” Kehoe said.
Kehoe gave testimony at the Board of Game meeting on Monday. He said the biggest concern facing wild animals is a pathogen called Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, known shorthand as "Movi", which can be transmitted from domestic animals and cause respiratory disease and death.
"We have put forth a solution to go Movi-free in the state of Alaska that if enacted would eliminate this threat and therefore removal of domestics from the clean list would never be warranted,” Kehoe said.
Kehoe’s testimony went contrary to what the language of the proposal is calling for: An elimination of domestic goat and sheep from the Clean List.
Pendergrast said if the board adopts the proposal as written it would have a devastating impact on farmers like himself.
"Lose your cat, your dog, lose your bird. They’re our family,” Pendergrast said.
Both groups agree they want to keep our state free from the deadly pathogen and are trying to work together to come up with a solution.
“We’re all Alaskans. We value and cherish our wildlife and no one wants to see any harm come to wild sheep,” Crosby said.
She said 27 farms around the state underwent voluntary testing in an effort to get ahead of the problem.
"I’ve been up here since 1958. I hunt, I fish I’m not opposed to adding an Movi test, I don’t want to have an Movi problem,” Pendergrast said, noting all his animals tested negative for the pathogen.
It will ultimately be up to the Board of Game to decide how to balance the protection of domestic and wild populations. Deliberations on all 69 proposals goes through Friday.
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