Same pathogen found in bighorn and domestic sheep after contact was observed
Here are two stories outlining what happened this winter with the outbreaks of disease in bighorn sheep. It appears that there are likely two different causes for the outbreaks. In the East Fork Bitterroot it appears that bighorn contracted mycoplasma from a small herd of domestic sheep near Darby where the owner reported contact. The sheep were later tested for disease and the samples matched what was found in the bighorn sheep. To the north and east in the upper and lower Rock Creek herds and the Bonner herd it appears that something else is going on but, even though there are many domestic sheep in close proximity to these bighorn herds, no documented contact has been observed. That doesn’t say much though and doesn’t eliminate the likelihood that contact occurred. We’ve had reports on this blog of seeing domestic sheep in an area one day and bighorn sheep in the same area the next in this region.
It should be noted that the owner of the domestic sheep in the Sula, Mt. area has moved the sheep and is hoping that a new home can be found for them in an area that doesn’t have bighorn sheep.
Fortunately the outbreaks haven’t been as devastating as others on the basis of percentage. Still, the overall numbers of bighorn sheep lost is staggering and the effects of the outbreaks will likely impact lamb survival for years to come.
Pneumonia outbreak cut bighorn herds in half
By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian
Biologist: Bitterroot herd survived pneumonia outbreak
By PERRY BACKUS Ravalli Republic