DWR Press Release
Visitors are asked to report sick sheep to the park’s biologists
Zion National Park — If you see coughing bighorn sheep during your visit to Zion National Park, please 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.
Biologists at Zion National Park identified a bighorn sheep ewe on July 20 that was coughing and showing signs of illness. Shortly thereafter, the ewe was safely euthanized for testing. Lab tests of the ewe’s respiratory system 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. 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 Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) to monitor the bighorns in and around Zion 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,” says UDWR Bighorn Sheep Biologist Jace Taylor, “and not all are equally lethal to bighorn sheep. 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. You can reach the biologists at 435-772-0217 or Zion_Park_Information@nps.gov.