SPRINGDALE, Utah, July 31, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is asking visitors to Zion National Park to report bighorn sheep that are coughing excessively amid pneumonia concerns.
A news release from the Utah DWR said guests who see desert bighorn sheep coughing during their visit to Zion are asked to let the park biologists know.
“While some minor coughing is natural, excessive coughing is a symptom of bacterial pneumonia, a disease that can cause significant concern for populations of bighorn sheep,” the news release said.
Reports from visitors will help biologists determine how many sheep have contracted pneumonia.
Biologists at Zion National Park identified a bighorn sheep ewe on July 20 that was coughing and showing signs of illness, the news release said. The sheep was euthanized and lab tests showed the presence of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, a bacterium commonly associated with pneumonia in bighorn sheep.
“While the bighorn herd in and around Zion National Park has been tested regularly, this is the first positive test for Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae,” the news release goes on. “Since the sighting of the initial coughing ewe, additional sick bighorns have been found in the park, and more samples have been collected.”
Zion National Park is working closely with the Utah DWR to monitor the bighorns in and around the park to collect more information on the spread of the disease and to understand the risk that it poses to this herd.
“There are many variations of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae and not all are equally lethal to bighorn sheep,” said Utah DWR bighorn sheep biologist Jace Taylor. “At this time, no bighorn sheep in the Zion herd are known to have died from pneumonia.”
While antibiotics and vaccines are not effective at treating the disease, helping the staff at Zion National Park know about coughing bighorn sheep will help them manage for healthy animals. The biologists can be reached by calling 435-772-0217 or emailing here.