Advertisement

Wild sheep in South Okanagan also facing pandemic, says B.C. animal society

The Wild Sheep Society of B.C. says they began receiving reports in mid-July of sheep in a South Okanagan herd exhibiting symptoms of a bacteria called Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae.
The Wild Sheep Society of B.C. says they began receiving reports in mid-July of sheep in a South Okanagan herd exhibiting symptoms of a bacteria called Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae. DeAgostini / Getty Images

A wildlife society says wild sheep in parts of B.C., much like humans across the planet, are facing a pandemic.

The Wild Sheep Society of B.C. says they began receiving reports in mid-July of sheep in a South Okanagan herd exhibiting symptoms of a bacteria called Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae.

Commonly called M.Ovi, the bacteria species is known as a respiratory pathogen that is associated with pneumonia in sheep and goats.

Read more: ‘Alarming trend’ of people keeping wild animals as pets in Saskatchewan: WRSOS

According to one website, the disease was identified in Australia in 1972 that has spread globally.

“We are incredibly saddened to announce that ministry staff sampled and confirmed the presence of M. Ovi in two lambs in our Vaseux bighorn sheep herd, just outside of Penticton,” said the Wild Sheep Society of B.C.

Story continues below advertisement

“M.Ovi is the infection that typically triggers bighorn sheep pneumonia outbreaks, a nightmarish parallel to COVID-19.”

Click to play video 'Seeking greater protection for bighorn sheep' Seeking greater protection for bighorn sheep
Seeking greater protection for bighorn sheep

The society says it brought M.Ovi to the government’s attention more than a decade ago.

“Wild sheep do not know the meaning of social distancing. Until strict and drastic measures are put in place to ensure separation, we are going to continue to lose wild sheep to their own pandemic at an alarming rate,” said society project chair Chris Barker.

The key to helping prevent M.Ovi from further spreading, says the society, is to keep domestic sheep and goats away from wildlife.

The society says M.Ovi has torn through the bighorn herd in Chasm, savagely reducing the herd’s numbers. Barker says the Chasm herd went from around 125 in size to 15.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'Sheep farmers see increased demand from ethnic market in Saskatchewan' Sheep farmers see increased demand from ethnic market in Saskatchewan
Sheep farmers see increased demand from ethnic market in Saskatchewan

He also said M.Ovi has been detected in herds along the Fraser River, from Lillooet to Williams Lake, and that the numbers have dropped to 1,500 from 4,500.

“The science on this disease is clear,” said the society.

“Only drastic and immediate action taken by government and other involved stakeholders can avert not only the decline, but the unfortunate and eventual extinction of a species that has roamed the hillsides of B.C. for years.”

The Wild Sheep Society of B.C. says it is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to protecting wild sheep and their habitat.

For more about the society, click here.

Click to play video 'Natural toxin may explain mysterious deaths of elephants in Botswana, wildlife official says' Natural toxin may explain mysterious deaths of elephants in Botswana, wildlife official says
Natural toxin may explain mysterious deaths of elephants in Botswana, wildlife official says