In 2004 and 2007 Rocky mountain bighorn sheep were reintroduced on Goslin mountain in Utah, near Flaming Gorge reservoir. In the winter of 2009-10 these sheep came down with pneumonia, and were culled by the UDWR. The sheep from the 2007 transplant came from Sula Montana. The Sula Montana herd was also experiencing a pneumonia outbreak in 2010.

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

“Domestic sheep, which have built up a resistance to the sickness, can transmit pneumonia to bighorn. But McFarlane does not think that was the case with the Goslin herd. The wild sheep involved in the second transplant from Montana came from a herd which is also currently experiencing an outbreak of pneumonia. It is possible the malady lay dormant within the herd and was released when an environmental trigger was pulled.”

Considering that these bighorns came from the South end of the Bitterroot Valley where there have been reports of wildlife malformations in all ruminant animals since the early 1990s, the above statement rings very true.

“On male  Bighorn  Sheep killed  by  hunters in  Montana  in  2009,  of  19  examined, 10 had  brachygnathia  superior/underbite.  That  is  53%  with  underbite. Ungulates with underbite can not  graze  efficiently,  thus  often  suffer  from  malnutrition”–Judy Hoy, Wildlife researcher, Stevensville Montana.

These under bites are caused by thyroid disruption and have been found in animals living in environments where pesticides have been applied. Like deer in Utah along roads and power line right of ways that have been sprayed.  Not only can these animals not efficiently feed which leads to malnourishment and disease, hypothyroidism works like an autoimmune disorder creating susceptibility to other diseases.

As for what pulled that environmental trigger? Goslin mountain has been the site of many habitat improvements over the years. Many of these habitat improvements utilize pesticides like is Stansbury Utah, and Malhuer Oregon. Also Flaming Gorge is a hydroelectric power plant, with power line right of ways radiating out from the dam. These power line right of ways are routinely treated with pesticides across the West.