Bighorn sheep near Jackson at risk of fatal pneumonia outbreak

Jan 29, 2013

Credit Billings Gazette

Bacteria connected with pneumonia that can be fatal to bighorn sheep has been found in the herd living near Jackson. This month, 10 of 14 bighorn sheep tested positive for mycoplasma ovipneumonia.

In the early 2000s, this same bighorn sheep herd was cut in half by an outbreak of pneumonia.  After this outbreak, the lamb birth-rate did not return to normal levels for about four years. 

Game and Fish biologist Doug Brimeyer says that there is not enough evidence to say whether or not these kinds of outbreaks are cyclical. 

“Given the history of the herd and the presence of mycoplasma we know that the population is at risk of a die-off and we’ll just have to continue monitoring this winter to determine what that level of mortality… the population could experience.

Brimeyer says that there is little that can be done to stop an outbreak of pneumonia among sheep.  However, the Game and Fish is watching the herd, collecting data, and plans a helicopter survey in February.