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See event listings and more articles in this edition of Agri-News: April 17, 2023 issue

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

Signs of the disease in bighorns 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 mountain goats who are also susceptible to the disease), so maintaining physical separation from domestic sheep and goats is very important.”

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEPA) has identified high-risk areas near bighorn ranges where domestic sheep and goat use on crown lands is prohibited (example: for industry) or strongly discouraged.

AEPA, in collaboration with Agriculture and Irrigation, has also initiated a voluntary testing and fencing program for domestic sheep and goat producers in these areas. Funding is available from the government through a Minister’s Special Licence grant to cover producers’ costs related to these activities.

Albertans are asked to help protect bighorn sheep by:

  • not taking M. ovi positive domestic sheep or goats on public lands in high-risk areas
  • testing domestic sheep and goats for M. ovi (government funding is available)
  • using ‘no-contact’ fencing to prevent close contact with bighorn sheep (government funding is available)
  • testing hunter-harvested bighorn sheep for M. ovi (refer to the Alberta Hunting Guide for further information)
  • reporting sightings of bighorn sheep near your domestic sheep or goats, or sick bighorn sheep, by calling your local Alberta Parks and Protected Areas biologist (call 310-0000)
  • helping increase awareness of M. ovi (tell a friend or colleague of the risk)

Questions about the testing and fencing program for domestic sheep and goat producers? Contact Dr. Heather Van Esch, surveillance veterinarian with the Alberta government, at 403-948-8536.

For more information, see:

Pneumonia and bighorn sheep


Connect with Dr. Heather Van Esch for more information:
Phone: 403-948-8536

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