The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has begun to capture bighorn sheep this winter to monitor the presence of pneumonia in the Jackson Region. Scientists are collecting nasal and tonsil swabs, along with blood samples from those sheep that are captured east of Jackson. Game and Fish Spokesman Mark Gocke explains the Jackson herd experienced a significant die-off due to pneumonia in 2002. Wildlife biologists estimate as much as half of the herd – nearly 250 — died at that time. The Whiskey Basin herd in the Wind River Range near Dubois has struggled through several pneumonia outbreaks as well. Similarly, several bighorn sheep herds across the Rocky Mountain west have also experienced significant declines in population due to pneumonia in recent years. Last winter, biologists collected samples for laboratory analysis and fitted GPS collars to animals wintering in five distinct areas near Jackson including the Gray Hills, Red Hills and Slide Lake areas in the Gros Ventre drainage, as well as Miller Butte on the National Elk Refuge and Hoback Canyon south of Jackson. Gocke says monitoring the animals will help identify migration corridors between winter and summer ranges, and help determine whether the different segments of the herd intermingle on lambing and summer ranges. He says the information also will help wildlife managers determine the potential scope of a pneumonia outbreak, should it occur.