Part of Agri-News

Risk to bighorn sheep and mountain goat populations

Domestic sheep and goats can pose a significant threat to the health of bighorn sheep and mountain goat populations.

See event listings and more articles in this edition of Agri-News: July 4, 2022 issue

“Domestic sheep and goats commonly carry a bacterium called Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi for short) that can cause pneumonia and large-scale population die-offs of wild herds following close contact,” says Anne Hubbs, senior wildlife biologist with the Alberta government.

Signs of the disease include coughing, nasal discharge, weight loss and in most cases, death. Unlike their wild counterparts, many domestic animals with M. ovi show no visible signs of the disease.

There are no vaccines or treatments for wild sheep or goats, so maintaining physical separation from domestic sheep and goats is critical.

“We have identified areas in Alberta where domestic sheep and goat use on crown lands is strongly discouraged in all cases, or prohibited for industry, for example forestry or energy companies. In collaboration with the Alberta government, we have also initiated a voluntary testing and fencing program for domestic sheep and goat producers in these areas.”

Albertans are asked to report sightings of the following to their local biologist:

  • bighorn sheep and mountain goats near domestic sheep and goat herds
  • domestic sheep or goats in bighorn sheep and mountain goat ranges
  • sick bighorn sheep or mountain goats

Learn more about pneumonia and bighorn sheep.

Download the map of Mountain Goat and Bighorn Sheep Areas

Domestic sheep and goat producers can contact Heather Van Esch at 403-948-8536, surveillance veterinarian, with questions.

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