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Bighorn Sheep (Photo Credit: NPS)

Bighorn Sheep (Photo Credit: NPS)

An outbreak of pneumonia is killing bighorn sheep in the Mojave National Preserve. The origin of the outbreak is unknown, but an angora goat was found in the vicinity of Old Dad Mountain. Goats can carry diseases like pneumonia that wild sheep have no natural defense against, though the goats may not present symptoms of the disease. Pneumonia has a 50%-90% mortality rate for bighorn sheep, and contact is not required for transmission. And because there are no treatment or vaccination options available, pneumonia outbreaks can eliminate entire herds.

A 2010 pneumonia outbreak decimated bighorn sheep populations in the western US. Surviving sheep become carriers of the disease, and pass it along to their offspring, making natural recovery nearly impossible. According to the NPS website, pneumonia outbreaks have reduced herds of bighorn sheep in western states by up to 90 percent.

Last week, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a three-day survey by helicopter of regions where affected or potentially affected herds of sheep are found. the results are still being compiled.

NPS story here

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