Pneumonia infiltrates Oregon’s Burnt River bighorn sheep

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Oregon has bad news: the Burnt River bighorn sheep herd are infected with pneumonia and it’s the same strain that caused a die-off in the Lookout Mountain herd earlier this year. This is the first-time bacterial pneumonia has been discovered in the Burnt River herd, the Argus Observer reports.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) confirmed the disease in the new herd and have linked the transfer of the pneumonia from bighorn sheep that crossed Interstate 84 – a state highway that normally divides the herds. 

Recent samples that were collected from a tribally hunter-harvested 4 1/2-year-old ram and another ram found dead in Burnt River Canyon found “the bacterial strain in these animals closely matches the Lookout Mountain strain,” which is different from other strains found in the Hells Canyon herds, according to the Argus Observer. Based upon this information as well as “documentation of sheep trying to cross I-84,” ODFW and CTUIR believe that intermingling between the two herds caused the disease transmission. Since confirming the presence of pneumonia, ODFW has collected three dead sheep from the Burnt River herd – all with confirmed cases of bacterial pneumonia. 

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for wild sheep and, once infected, herds usually experience die-offs. ODFW will continue to monitor and test bighorn sheep in both the Burnt River and Lookout Mountain herds “to determine the extent of the mortality and the current infection rate in the remaining population,” according to the Argus Observer.

Stay tuned to goHUNT for further updates.

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