We investigated a pasteurellosis epizootic in free-ranging bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) wherein a Pasteurellaceae strain carried by syntopic cattle (Bos taurus) under severe winter conditions appeared to contribute to pneumonia in affected bighorns. Twenty-one moribund or dead bighorn sheep were found on the “Fossil Ridge” herd's winter range, Colorado, USA, between 13 December 2007 and 29 February 2008. Eight carcasses examined showed gross or microscopic evidence of acute to subacute fibrinous broncho-pneumonia. All eight carcasses yielded at least one β-hemolytic Mannheimia haemolytica biogroup 1(±G) strain, and seven also yielded a β-hemolytic Bibersteinia trehalosi biogroup 4CDS strain; evidence of Pasteurella multocida, Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, and parainfluenza 3 and bovine respiratory syncytial viruses was also detected. Isolates of β-hemolytic Manneimia haemolytica biogroup 1G from a bighorn carcass and a syntopic cow showed 99.5% similarity in genetic fingerprints; B. trehalosi biogroup 4CDS isolates were ≥94.9% similar to an isolate from a nearby bighorn herd. Field and laboratory observations suggested that pneumonia in affected bighorns may have been caused by a combination of pathogens including two pathogenic Pasteurellaceae strains—one likely of cattle origin and one likely of bighorn origin—with infections in some cases perhaps exacerbated by other respiratory pathogens and severe weather conditions. Our and others' findings suggest that intimate interactions between wild sheep and cattle should be discouraged as part of a comprehensive approach to health management and conservation of North American wild sheep species.
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