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Wildlife officials ask Zion visitors to be on lookout for coughing bighorn sheep amid pneumonia concerns

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Posted at 11:53 AM, Jul 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-31 13:53:37-04

ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah — Wildlife officials are asking visitors to Zion National Park to tell a park biologist if they happen to see a coughing bighorn sheep during their trip.

The alert comes after a bighorn sheep ewe was found to be coughing and showing signs of illness on July 20. The sheep was euthanized for lab testing and wildlife officials found the presence of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, which they say is a bacterium commonly associated with pneumonia in bighorn sheep.

This is the first such positive test among the herd at Zion, but the Division of Wildlife Resources says several additional sick bighorn have been found in the park since that first ewe.

Park officials are working closely with the DWR to monitor bighorns in and around the park and to collect more information on the spread of the disease.

“There are many variations of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae,” stated UDWR Bighorn Sheep Biologist Jace Taylor, “and not all are equally lethal to bighorn sheep. At this time, no bighorn sheep in the Zion herd are known to have died from pneumonia.”

While antibiotics and vaccines are not effective in treating pneumonia among bighorn, officials say reporting sightings of sick animals can help them manage the herd and keep the overall population healthy. Park biologists can be reached by phone at 435-772-0217.