Zion National Park visitors asked to report excessive coughing by bighorn sheep

Zion National Park is asking visitors to keep an ear out for bighorn sheep that are excessively coughing. (Photo: Phil Tuttle)

(KUTV) — Zion National Park is asking visitors to keep an ear out for bighorn sheep that are excessively coughing.

This is a symptom of bacterial pneumonia, a disease that can cause significant concern for populations of bighorn sheep.

On July 20, biologists at the park identified a sheep ewe that was coughing and showed signs of illness.

Lab tests of the ewe's respiratory system showed the presence of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, a bacteria that is commonly associated with pneumonia in bighorn sheep.

While bighorn sheep in the park are regularly tested, this was the first positive test for Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, according to a news release.

Since this initial test, more sick sheep have been found in the area.

"There are many variations of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae,” UDWR Bighorn Sheep Biologist Jace Taylor said in a news release. “Not all are equally lethal to bighorn sheep. At this time, no bighorn sheep in the Zion herd are known to have died from pneumonia.”

Unfortunately, antibiotics and vaccines are not effective with treating the disease.

To contact the Zion National Park biologists at 435-772-0217 or at Zion_Park_Information@nps.gov


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