Washington State is working to protect bighorn sheep from a deadly pneumonia after sheep were reported sick near Wenatchee.

Tests by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife show one Bighorn lamb is positive for the bacteria that causes the fatal pneumonia.

The department has confirmed the bacteria is now present in all of the bighorn herds it manages in the region.

Past outbreaks of the deadly pneumonia have been linked to interaction between wild bighorns and domestic sheep and goats, which the department says its working to prevent.

Domestic sheep or goats carry the bacteria (known as Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, or Movi), but are unaffected by it.

But pneumonia caused by the Movi bacteria can be fatal in bighorn sheep and can reduce the survival rate of lambs for many years after the initial outbreak. There is no treatment for Bighorn sheep, and no preventative vaccine.

The test of the Bighorn lamb also showed the presence bluetongue virus, a disease that transmits to them from gnats during the driest times of the year.

WDFW is continuing to collect samples through hunter harvest and reports of dead sheep.

Mike Livingston, WDFW Region 3 Director, says the Quilomene bighorn herd, Washington's largest herd, is being affected by the bacteria and the virus.

“At this point, we know Movi and bluetongue virus are in the herd, and we’re going to monitor these sheep closely,” said Livingston. “This is disappointing as it means that the bacteria are present in all WDFW-managed bighorn sheep herds in Region 3.”

WDFW is asking anyone who notices coughing or other abnormal behavior in Bighorn sheep in the southern half of the Quilomene herd's range (from Quilomene Bay to Vantage) to contact its South-Central Regional Office through email or by calling 509-575-2740.

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