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The virus infects a herd of bighorn sheep in Central Washington | Livestock

 


Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday that a deadly pneumonia infected a herd of bighorn sheep in south-central Washington, about 40 miles away from another herd exposed to sick domestic ewes.

The aerial virus has not been found in herds of kilomen in contact with infected domestic sheep grazing within that range. However, the infection appeared in a herd of Mount Clement in the southwest.

Fish and Wildlife said there was no evidence that the virus had spread from the Quilomene herd to the Coleman herd. The herd is separated by Interstate 90 and a moose fence, said Brock Hornes, manager of the ungulate division of the agency.

“It’s very unlikely that the flock will come into contact,” he said.

Mycoplasma ovipeneumoniae has mild effects on domestic sheep and goats, but causes severe pneumonia in bighorn sheep. Fish and Wildlife eliminated the Tieton bighorn herd in 2013 to prevent the virus from spreading to adjacent Coleman herds.

Fish and Wildlife said it was not considering eliminating a herd of Clements with about 250 animals. According to Fish and Wildlife, the virus has already been established in the closest herd, the Yakima Canyon herd.

According to Fish and Wildlife, hunters saw dead lambs and other lambs in a herd of Clement being lethargic. Wildlife biologists collected samples from dead lambs and the samples were tested positive for the virus.

The agency said it didn’t know where the virus came from.

Fish and Wildlife said it would monitor the herd and test the hunter-harvested bighorn sheep.

The sight of bighorn sheep and bighorn sheep mixing in a herd of quilomen in early October surprised wildlife authorities. With the permission of the owner, the department tested the sheep and found it infected with the virus.

Fish and wildlife have fatally removed 12 bighorn sheep in the herd. All tests were negative for the virus.

Hoenes said the department flew over the flock on Monday, but no sheep showed signs of illness.

“It’s better news to be cautiously optimistic about our dodging bullets,” he said.

The department plans to continue flying over Quilomene herds for a few more weeks.

Fish and Wildlife founded a herd of Clement in 1967 by releasing eight animals. By 2000, the population had exceeded 150.

Bighorn sheep in south-central Washington are “not unexpected” due to the proximity of domestic sheep and goats, according to the ministry’s 2019 Game Status and Trends Report.

According to Hoenes, the department has been working for several years to prevent the virus from spreading from domestic herds to wild herds. This effort includes collaboration with sheep owners and research on pathogen-free sheep breeding.

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