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 with Rob Miskosky

Chatter to Chew On

Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi) is a bacteria “commonly found in the nasal cavity and sinuses of apparently healthy domestic sheep and goats”. M. ovi can be easily passed on to wild bighorn sheep. While most domestic sheep and goats appear to have an immunity to M. ovi, unfortunately, our bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) do not and if an outbreak occurs, mortality can be high. Considering there is only an estimated 9,000 bighorn sheep in Alberta, an M. ovi outbreak is serious business.

History tells us that Alberta has recorded “six bighorn pneumonia outbreaks since 1937, with mortality from 10 to 75%”.

In March of this year, the Alberta government released the following statement, “An outbreak of infectious bacterial pneumonia was identified in a small band of bighorn sheep west of Diamond Valley, with several sheep succumbing to the disease. Test results from the dead sheep indicated infectious bacterial pneumonia and confirmed the presence of Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae. On March 14, the 6 remaining bighorns in the group were humanely euthanized and submitted for full post-mortem. To date, additional sick or dead bighorn sheep have not been seen elsewhere in the Sheep River valley. Environment and Protected Areas, in conjunction with Alberta Parks, has undertaken additional monitoring on other bighorn sheep herds in Alberta.”

With no vaccines or treatments available for pneumonia in wild sheep, it appears as though little can be done outside of keeping wild sheep separated from domestic sheep and goats, which is obvious and vital to the health of wild bighorn sheep populations.

While some might feel that euthanizing the six bighorns wasn’t necessary and that nature should be left to its own course, I’d like to point out that leaving Mother Nature to her own devious means isn’t always the best course of action, just look at CWD for instance.

M. ovi is a serious issue and if left alone could spread fast to other sheep herds. Here’s hoping that won’t the case.

* * * * *

A recent article by the National Deer Association (NDA) caught me by surprise. With the title, “Why We Don’t Recommend Antler Traps”, I was immediately drawn to the article, as I wanted to know what an antler trap was—perhaps I’m just naive, but I’d never heard of an antler trap before.

From the article, It’s the time of year when bucks are beginning to shed their antlers and hunters are beginning to grow impatient to go hunt those shed antlers. And every year as talk of shed hunting begins, we also encounter hunters who just don’t have much patience and want the bucks to bring the sheds to them. They devise what are known as “antler traps”—devices designed to snare and pull off the antlers of bucks attracted to a feed source.

For those who don’t know, the NDA is an American association located in Georgia that state on their website, “Re-forged on November 10, 2020, from the combined strengths of two deer organizations with 38 years of action, the National Deer Association is united for deer with a new vision to make an impact for conservation immediately and for future generations. Our mission: ensuring the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting.”

The NDA also has a very comprehensive website with plenty of information deer related, including some things you might not agree with, including food plots, but that’s a conversation for another day.

© Kirk Hewlett
The article in question, however, had no photos or diagrams of an antler trap so I Googled “antler traps” and found a bunch of videos on how to build an antler trap. I also found videos on why you shouldn’t build an antler trap, which the NDA also discourages. In fact, in some states, antler traps are illegal for the following reasons. If a buck isn’t quite ready to shed his antler and he becomes entangled in an antler trap, “part of the antler pedicle (the base from which antlers grow) will break off with the antler”. If this happens, two things can happen. The first is that the antler will grow back deformed. The second is that “in some cases the damaged area of the pedicle, which is essentially an open wound for a short time, can become infected with bacteria that are naturally present on a deer’s skin, and the result can be a fatal brain abscess.”

It never fails to amaze me what people come up with...

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