Bacterial pneumonia found among Wenatchee-area bighorns


WENATCHEE — Wild bighorn sheep that graze near Wenatchee have tested positive for a pneumonia-causing bacteria that can be deadly to herds.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says samples from the Quilomene herd last month showed the presence of the mycoplasma bacteria, which creates fatal pneumonia symptoms and can spread quickly among the hoofed animals. Last week, the department began searching the herd’s range by helicopter, and found at least one juvenile sheep with pneumonia symptoms.

The Quilomene herd, Washington’s largest bighorn herd at roughly 250 individuals, ranges from Malaga to Ellensburg. In October 2020, wildlife agents euthanized 12 bighorns from the herd in its southern range after an outbreak of mycoplasma, which can be introduced to wild sheep by contact with domestic sheep. That year, wildlife observers spotted several Quilomene bighorn in contact with a domestic sheep at Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park.

Two environmental groups, the WildEarth Guardians and the Western Watersheds Project, are now suing over U.S. forest Service grazing allotments, saying the practice allows domestic sheep to graze too close to wild bighorn and risks their health.

If you observe bighorn sheep coughing or displaying other abnormal behavior, contact the Fish and Wildlife South Central office by email or at 509-575-2740.