Published Date: 2006-03-17 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Pneumonia, bighorn sheep - USA (NM)
Archive Number: 20060316.0824
PNEUMONIA, BIGHORN SHEEP - USA (NEW MEXICO)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail, a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Wed 15 Mar 2006
From: Nita Madhav <email@example.com>
Source: Associated Press via Arizona Daily Star [edited]
8 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from the Gila National Forest have died since
late December 2005 from a highly virulent disease that has the potential to
kill entire herds, but experts hope that the worst of the outbreak has passed.
"We're cautiously optimistic at this point. It's certainly a loss of some
sheep, but we did not have the loss we were expecting," said Luis Rios,
Southwest Area Chief for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in Las
Rios said samples were collected and laboratory tests showed the sheep died
from bacterial pneumonia, a disease commonly carried by domestic sheep and
goats. Based on a sample group of 4 mortalities from the 16 [radio-] collared
sheep, bighorn sheep biologist Eric Romanger speculates that a quarter of the
100-plus herd might have died from the disease.
"If it were only 25 percent, we'd breathe a sigh of relief. The sample group
is not really representative, but we suspect at least that much," he said.
New Mexico's population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep has reached nearly
1000 for the first time since the late 1800s, Romanger said. There are
herds around Wheeler Peak, Pecos and the Latir Wilderness in the north and the
Manzano Mountains, Turkey Creek and the San Francisco River area in the south.
It is the San Francisco herd that's infected. Established in the 1960s, the
once-strong 150-200 member herd was reduced to a mere 38 by a previous, more
devastating pneumonia outbreak that started in the early 1990s, Romanger said
"It's your classic Old World disease attacking a New World animal, just like
smallpox and native populations. (Domesticated sheep) all lived through the
die-off in Europe 1000 years ago," Romanger said. "The disease has little
effect on domestic sheep but will kill bighorns."
The department's goal is to keep bighorn sheep separated from domestic animals
to prevent the spread of the disease. But because public lands are often
interwoven with private land in New Mexico, it's hard to prevent contact or
determine when contact occurred.
"We think the most likely contact recently occurred at a private sheep ranch
in Arizona, where the San Francisco herd also roams. That is the most obvious
place, but it could also be a mom and pop [operation] with 3 or 4 sheep on
their land," Romanger said.
Daniel Patterson, desert ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity in
Tucson, said it's unacceptable to lose bighorn sheep to disease in their
native habitat. "It's a totally preventable situation. This is an animal
husbandry issue. People on public or private land have an ethical
responsibility to take care of their livestock," he said.
[Byline: Melanie Dabovich]
Nita Madhav, MSPH
Boston, MA, USA
[Owners who do not spend much time with their animals may not notice that an
animal is ill. Sick animals coming in contact with wild animals may transmit
This article does not specify the bacteria responsible for the pneumonia.
_Pasteurella haemolytica_ and _Pasteurella multocida_ are the most common
bacterial organisms causing pneumonia in sheep. Most sheep affected do display
some degree of anorexia, some evidence of labored breathing, and loss of
weight. It would seem even the most inexperienced herdsman would recognize
such difficulty in the flock and treat the animals accordingly.
If samples from any of the bighorn sheep have been sent for testing, we would
appreciate knowing outcome of the bacterial cultures. - Mod.TG]
New Mexico locater map:
Gila National Forest