The respiratory bacteria first confirmed to be infecting wild Alaska sheep and goats recently has now been found in additional animals.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced that an additional nine Dall sheep and three mountain goats have tested positive for Mycoplasma ovipneumonia, and that these animals were found over a wide range of the state, including the Alaska, Brooks and Wrangell mountain ranges. The infected sheep were found in game management units 12, 13A, 20A, 26B and 26C. The infected goats were found in the Kenai Peninsula.
None of the infected animals have shown signs of disease, and the news release stresses that the virility of Mycoplasma ovipneumonia varies between strains of the bacteria.
The announcement also stated that additional animals are still being tested, indicating more announcements may follow.
"We're sharing these findings with Alaskans as we receive them," director Bruce Dale of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation said in a written statement. "We obviously have more to learn about M. ovi in Alaska."
Mycoplasma ovipneumonia, often known as M. ovi, is a bacteria that can impair a sheep or goat's ability to to clear its lungs of other bacteria, making it more vulnerable to disease. Until two weeks ago, the bacteria hadn't been reported in wild sheep or goat populations.
Wildlife managers had been on the lookout for the bacteria because it's blamed for contributing to bighorn sheep die-offs in the Lower 48.
Two weeks ago, the department reported the positive tests for M. ovi in four sheep in the Talkeetna Mountains in Unit 13A and in two goats on the Kenai Peninsula
The national Wild Sheep Foundation has responded by calling for mandatory testing of domestic sheep and goats for the bacteria. The bacteria can spread from domestic to wild animals, although researchers haven't demonstrated that's what happened in Alaska.
The Alaska Farm Bureau, which represents farmers, urged patience and voluntary testing of animals.
“This is an issue that requires serious attention, but we don’t want people to freak out about it," Farm Bureau president Bryce Wrigley said in a written statement. "We have time to gather information and plan instead of rushing into something out of fear. The sheep and goats that have tested positive for M. ovi so far have all been healthy.”