- Associated Press - Saturday, November 19, 2016

DEADWOOD, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks officials said they’re concerned about the deaths of five bighorn sheep in the past few weeks, diminishing the herd of 26 animals transplanted last year from Canada.

Regional Wildlife Manager Trenton Haffley told the Rapid City Journal (https://bit.ly/2fxBe9O) that the first bighorn died Oct. 13 when it fell off a cliff south of Deadwood.

“Bighorn sheep love walking along cliffs, but unfortunately we find sheep every year that have fallen off cliffs,” Regional Wildlife Manager Trenton Haffley said.

State game officials are most worried about the loss of at least one to a form of pneumonia that can infiltrate a bighorn herd. Lab tests showed the sick ewe had suffered from mycoplasma ovi-pneumonia, a deadly bacterial disease that is often the primary cause of pneumonia in sheep.

“It didn’t sink in for a day, but for me, I have a special spot for sheep,” Haffley said. “I really, really like bighorn sheep, so it’s been a really rough week.”

He added there is a possibility that the pneumonia found could be a highly virulent strain with the potential to wipe out the entire herd.

“We’ve really lost a bunch of bighorns up there in the past few weeks from some off-the-wall causes,” Haffley said. “We can put a finger on what happened with each, but it’s just been one after another with sheep dying up there.”

The other three deaths occurred to due to a bacterial infection, a drowning and old age.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, https://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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