State to kill bighorn sheep
Domestic ewe may have spread bacteria to herd near Vantage
Last updated 10/12/2020 at 3:04pm
VANTAGE — The state Department of Fish and Wildlife expect to kill at least 15 bighorn sheep in the Quilomene herd in eastern Kittitas County due to a virus.
They also expect to test at least another 10-15 animals in the 220-250 population herd to see if they are infected, and by extension, if the herd is infected.
The action comes after a Washington State University veterinarian confirmed a Mycoplasma bacteria infection in a domestic ewe found Oct. 1 with seven bighorn rams in Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park. The bacteria causes a disease that can lead to fatal pneumonia in bighorn sheep.
"At this time, we know the ewe was with wild bighorns in the most southern portion of the herd's range, where approximately 50 bighorns are located," agency Region 3 Director Mike Livingston said. "What we have to find out is whether any of the wild sheep have contracted the disease from her. It's an unfortunate situation, but the operation, which will primarily target rams, should have minimal effect on the overall population."
There is no vaccine or treatment for the bacteria and disease.
"Once we know if Mycoplasma has infected the herd, we will have a better understanding of how to move forward," Livingston said. "And, we must move quickly because the breeding season has started and will peak within the next few weeks."
Rams often cover large tracts of land searching for a mate during breeding season and increase the possible spread of the bacteria to other members of the herd.
Domestic sheep are not affected by the bacteria.
In the last major outbreak in the state, wildlife managers in 2013 eliminated the entire Tieton bighorn herd.