Pneumonia Outbreak in Bighorn Sheep Causing Concern
February 21, 2014
Southern Nevada's desert bighorn sheep population could be in trouble because of an outbreak of pneumonia, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife. The department says there are more than 11,000 bighorn sheep in Southern Nevada, and this is the first time a deadly pneumonia outbreak has hit the population. There is no way to treat an infected sheep, or to keep healthy sheep from catching the disease.
Last summer, visitors alerted the Nevada Department of Wildlife that some of the sheep from the herd appeared to be sick. There were also reports of dead sheep in the area. This week the department confirmed the sheep are fighting two strains of pneumonia that have now made their way into other herds.
Now researchers are monitoring the sheep to see just how harmful the disease is and how fast it's spreading. For now, officials said it's a matter of hoping nature will stop the disease from spreading to too many animals.
The department of wildlife has been transferring bighorn sheep from Southern Nevada to Utah and Texas since the 1960s, because the population has been so abundant. That program is at a standstill until the pneumonia is under control. He says if the disease hurts the population too much, sheep from other states might need to be transferred back to Nevada.
Wildlife biologists say a bacterial pneumonia outbreak appears to have spread from bighorn sheep herds in the River Mountains between Henderson and Boulder City to sheep in three other ranges.