In contrast to broad range expansion through translocations, many mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) populations have shown signs of decline. Recent documentation of pneumonia in mountain goats highlights their susceptibility to bacterial pathogens typically associated with bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) epizootics. Respiratory pathogen communities of mountain goats are poorly characterized yet have important implications for management and conservation of both species. We characterized resident pathogen communities across a range of mountain goat populations as an initial step to inform management efforts. Between 2010 and 2017, we sampled 98 individuals within three regions of the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), with a smaller sampling effort in southeast Alaska, US. Within the GYA, we detected Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae in two regions and we found at least two Pasteurellaceae species in animals from all regions. Mannheimia haemolytica was the only pathogen that we detected in southeast Alaska. Given the difficult sampling conditions, limited sample size, and imperfect detection, our failure to detect specific pathogens should be interpreted with caution. Nonetheless, respiratory pathogens within the GYA may be an important, yet underappreciated, cause of mountain goat mortality. Moreover, because of the strong niche overlap of bighorn sheep and mountain goats, interspecific transmission is an important concern for managers restoring or introducing mountain ungulates within sympatric ranges.
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Vol. 54 • No. 4