TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX)-Southern Idaho wildlife managers have removed the last few bighorn sheep from the South Hills area to protect other populations from disease. This week the Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced the last four bighorns were lethally removed from the Big Cottonwood Wildlife Management Area near Oakley; two were ewes and two were young rams.

About 50 bighorn sheep were placed in the area in the late '80s and early '90s but experienced a die-off which the herd never recovered from, even after more sheep were released, according to Fish and Game. By 2010, biologist determined there were only 15 bighorns in the area and by 2017 there were fewer than 10. The process to remove the South Hills herd began in 2017 with the issuance of hunting tags to allow hunters to harvest the older rams.

Officials said the main concern of the remaining four sheep was the spread of disease to other healthy populations of bighorn in southern Idaho if they migrated out of the South Hills.

In a statement released this week, Idaho Fish and Game wrote "Fish and Game policy is to maintain separation between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep and goats. Domestic sheep and goats carry respiratory pathogens that are lethal to bighorn sheep. These pathogens cause all-age die-offs due to bacterial pneumonia and persistent low lamb recruitment or survival, sometimes lasting for decades after the initial die-off."