Study of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae in Alaska's Domestic Sheep and Goats
Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (Movi)
In the western U.S., bighorn sheep populations have experienced severe and drastic populations losses (up to 75-95%) due to outbreaks of pneumonia, in some cases following interaction with domestic sheep and goats. Currently, these outbreaks are being attributed to the bacterium Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (Movi), which is known to cause respiratory disease in wild sheep and goats, as well as livestock.
Due to the structure of farms in Alaska, the risk of disease transmission from domestic livestock to wildlife is lower than in other areas of the country. However, Movi has now been detected in healthy Dall's sheep as well as mountain goats in Alaska with no evidence of illness or deaths. More research and monitoring is needed to determine if the Movi strains found in Alaska wild sheep and goats are similar to those in the Lower 48 that have been associated with high mortality events. More information and analyses are needed to characterize the Movi strains and determine how widespread Movi and other Mycoplasmas might be in Alaska.
In 2016 (Proposition 90) and 2017 (Proposition 64), the Wild Sheep Foundation proposed amending a regulation that would remove domestic sheep and goats from the 'clean list' and add fencing and permit requirements for sheep and goat owners within 15 air miles of Dall sheep habitat. Also known as "Prop 64," the proposal was tabled at the 2017 Board of Game meeting after significant outcry by the public and others citing a lack of authority to regulate domestic animals (under authority of DEC) and the lack of any information that would demonstrate that wild sheep populations are at risk of contracting pathogens from domestic species. While the proposal is expected to be revisited this fall, the Sheep and Goat Working Group, organized by the Alaska Farm Bureau and composed of the OSV, representatives from the agricultural community, sheep and goat owners, other state agencies (Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Agriculture), and the Alaska Wild Sheep Foundation, have been meeting to develop a plan to address the underlying concern that domestic sheep and goats could transmit pathogens to wild populations.