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