Morbidity and mortality associated with respiratory disease following capture and translocation of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis) is a significant concern, particularly when establishing new or augmenting existing bighorn populations. Administration of prophylactic antibiotics at the time of capture is often done to minimize the risk of respiratory disease, but the efficacy of this practice is unknown. The effects of oxytetracycline and florfenicol on the Pasteurella (Bibersteinia) and Mannheimia spp. isolated from samples collected from the oropharynx at the time of capture and 3 or 42 day later were evaluated in two groups of bighorn sheep. The most evident change in the isolation rates or types of Pasteurella (Bibersteinia) spp., Mannheimia spp., or both was an increase of β-hemolytic strains isolated from bighorn sheep 3 day following oxytetracycline treatment. Both groups of bighorn sheep carried Pasteurella (Bibersteinia) trehalosi identified as the same biovariants, but they did not share biovariants of Mannheimia spp. No animals had signs of respiratory disease. Isolates representative of all biovariants present in cultures from the two bighorn sheep groups were sensitive to in vitro tests to both oxytetracycline and florfenicol and the majority were also sensitive to seven other antibiotics tested. The administration of neither oxytetracycline nor florfenicol eliminated Pasteurella (Bibersteinia) or Mannheimia from the oropharyngeal mucosa. Resistance to either antibiotic used in these animals was not noted. Although the prophylactic benefits of these drugs in preventing disease are uncertain, therapeutic levels of antibiotics in lung tissue during times of stress may reduce the risk of disease. Representative sampling of the oropharyngeal microflora of bighorn sheep source and recipient populations prior to being intermingled should be considered as one of the tools to minimize exposure of naïve populations to potentially pathogenic bacteria.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1