- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Wildlife officials in Oregon are looking for ways to prevent pneumonia in bighorn sheep.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has placed monitoring collars on dozens of wild sheep and will collar more in the coming months, reported The Bulletin (https://bit.ly/2evyQwW ). The department is keeping track of the animals’ deaths and completing blood and genetic testing.

Bacteria picked up from domestic sheep and goats can lead to pneumonia in bighorn sheep, a disease that has killed a large number of the animals in the West in the past few years. The respiratory pathogen doesn’t cause the domestic animals to get sick.

“When wild sheep get it, it’s pretty devastating,” said Autumn Larkins, assistant district wildlife biologist and sheep capture boss for ODFW. “We’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Larkins said researching the bacterial species is a priority because it has the potential to wipe out the entire state’s bighorn population. Just last year, it caused a herd of 150 in Malheur County’s Leslie Gulch to drop to only 30.

Nevada officials killed about two dozen wild sheep earlier this year as a way to keep the disease from spreading. Similar kills have taken place in Washington, Utah and Canada in the past to protect healthy herds.

Bighorn sheep didn’t evolve with the bacteria, which can cause pneumonia with infected lungs, coughing and runny eyes and noses. Female sheep that survive the illness can also pass it on to babies that can’t survive it, said state wildlife veterinarian Colin Gillin.

“They cannot handle this disease at all,” Larkins said.

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com


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