Alaska Farm Bureau President cautions producers not to overreact; additional information is needed
Anchorage, AK – (March 15, 2018) Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game has confirmed that a strain of the bacteria mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (movi) has been detected in Dall sheep and mountain goats in Alaska.
Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae is a bacterium that has been linked to pneumonia outbreaks and die-offs in bighorn sheep populations in the western United States.
While respiratory disease in bighorn sheep has been an ongoing issue with research trying to identify causes and gain a better understanding, it was a new issue to Alaska’s farmers and ranchers when “Prop 90” came before the Board of Game in 2016, with little information specific to Alaska and Dall sheep.
Until this recent news, movi had not been confirmed in Alaska’s wild sheep or goat population; there still have been no reports of pneumonia outbreaks or die-offs related to movi.
“This is an issue that requires serious attention, but we don’t want people to freak out about it. 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 movi so far have all been healthy,” says Bryce Wrigley, President of the Alaska Farm Bureau.
Attempts are ongoing with sheep and goat owners, Alaska Farm Bureau, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Office of the State Veterinarian, Division of Agriculture and wildlife advocates to form a plan to maintain healthy wildlife populations without putting unnecessary burdens on domestic sheep and goat owners.
These organizations, in collaboration with the USDA Animal Disease Research Unit and Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, launched a pilot study in July of 2017 to determine the prevalence of movi in domestic sheep and goats as well as in Alaska wildlife. Preliminary results are showing roughly 4% positive rate in domestic sheep and goats. According to information from the Department of Fish and Game, it is currently unknown if the movi recently found in Dall sheep and mountain goats is a result of contact with domestic sheep or goats.
“We commend the agencies and sheep and goat owners for their participation in this study to gather information on the prevalence of movi in our wild and domestic animals”, states Wrigley, “a sound management plan needs to be based on facts and science, which we have had very little of regarding movi in Alaska.”
Through the pilot study, a strain of movi was identified in both domestic and wild sheep and goat populations in Alaska. The study will continue throughout 2018 to better understand this pathogen and determine if other ungulates in Alaska can be carriers.
“We hope to see a collaborative effort continue to gather information and form a plan that will promote healthy wildlife and support our farmers,” says Wrigley.
Alaska sheep and goat producers can still participate in the voluntary study and should reach out to the Office of the State Veterinarian if interested.