A California bighorn ewe guards her lamb in Rattlesnake Canyon in southeast Oregon. Photo courtesy of Rob Spaan.
A California bighorn ewe guards her lamb in Rattlesnake Canyon in southeast Oregon.

Bighorn sheep research sheds light on path of killer disease

Bighorn sheep can’t elude M. ovi -- bacteria thought to be primarily responsible for fatal infectious pneumonia that can spread through contact with domesticated sheep.

With their ability to climb steep rocky mountain areas, California bighorn sheep live in some of the most rugged environments Oregon has to offer, but no matter how high they go, the wild sheep can’t elude Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi) — the bacteria now widely thought to be primarily responsible for fatal infectious pneumonia in bighorns.

Respiratory disease has killed numerous wild sheep in Oregon and other western states over the past few decades and is con

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