Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks confirms the discovery of pneumonia in the Cinnabar Mountain bighorn sheep herd near Corwin Springs earlier this week.
A report was made to FWP Monday about sheep coughing at Cinnabar Mountain. An FWP field biologist responded by observing the herd and evaluating the likelihood of the presence of pneumonia. Following the observation, two lambs were lethally removed on site and brought to the state wildlife lab in Bozeman for examination. Evidence of pneumonia was present in lungs of both lambs.
Region 3 Supervisor Pat Flowers said today, “FWP is currently assessing the extent of the affected sheep in order to determine the appropriate response actions. Those actions might include culling in order to prevent the spread of the disease to healthy animals.”
There are no known vaccines to prevent pneumonia in wild sheep. In extreme cases, pneumonia-related outbreaks can result in herd “die-offs.” Since 1984, there have been pneumonia related die-offs in 14 bighorn sheep populations in Montana. In the 1990’s Montana lost 1400 bighorn sheep due to pneumonia. Over 600 Montana bighorn sheep were lost to pneumonia in 2010 alone. Most pneumonia related die-offs have occurred in transplanted herds. The Cinnabar herd is part of a native population, and has never experienced a pneumonia outbreak.
FWP reminds hunters and others who might recreate in the area that it is illegal to possess a bighorn sheep head picked up in the wild. If dead or sick bighorn sheep are discovered, please contact FWP Region 3 Headquarters in Bozeman at (406) 994-4042.