Hunters Provide Samples To Aid M.ovi Research

The following press release is courtesy of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game: 

(STATEWIDE) — Thanks to hunters this fall, expanded efforts by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to learn more about Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, or “M.ovi,” received a welcome boost. Providing specimens from the field, hunters from around the state helped the department collect laboratory samples from more than 330 Dall sheep, 110 mountain goats, 100 caribou, and 100 moose.

“Hunter cooperation is crucial to our efforts to learn more about M.ovi distribution and prevalence in multiple species statewide,” said Director Bruce Dale. “We’re really still at a starting point, and the more we discover about M.ovi in Alaska the more we realize how much we have yet to learn.”

A bacteria known to occur in domestic sheep, goats, and wild sheep and goats in the Lower 48, some M.ovi strains have been identified as pathogens in Lower 48 bighorn sheep pneumonia outbreaks that have led to die-offs. The bacterium was detected earlier this year for the first time ever in Alaska Dall sheep and mountain goats. It was subsequently discovered in a Fortymile caribou found dead of pneumonia. That animal’s death marked the first — and, so far, only — case where M.ovi has been implicated in wildlife respiratory disease in Alaska.

The presence of M.ovi bacteria in the nasal passages of an animal does not mean it is or will become sick. More than 100 known Mycoplasma species exist, including M.ovi, and evidence suggests that virulence — the ability to infect and cause disease — varies between M.ovi strains. The ability of M.ovi to cause pneumonia is impacted by multiple stressors including poor nutritional condition and/or environmental factors such as extreme weather. Both domestic and wild ungulates can carry the bacteria while showing no signs of illness. No pneumonia outbreaks or die-offs in Alaska wildlife related to this bacterium have been detected.

Of the samples collected this fall from hunters, road kills, and department wildlife research projects, more than 800 have gone to the USDA Agricultural Research Services Laboratory with 375 of those having also been submitted to the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman, Washington. The samples will be analyzed and the department will provide updates as results are completed.

For more information about M.ovi findings in Alaska, see the frequently asked questions of the department’s website at