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bighornsoremouth

KNP tracking mouth disease in goatsPosted: May 26, 2012

You can sure see why this viral disease is called sore mouth. Also known as contagious ecthyma. The contagious part comes from the fact the disease is easily spread by direct contact with the virus or scabs containing the virus. It infects a number of wild animals around the world and is also capable of infecting humans, causing painful skin lesions in area of contact.

This photograph of an infected young goat was recorded this past winter by a remote camera set up by park biologists near Mt. Wardle. It is not known whether this particular animal survived the winter or not.

The disease was first recognized in North American wildlife in Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Banff National Park in 1952. Most infected bighorn sheep recover from the disease, but in severe cases the lesions may affect mobility and ability to feed, ultimately leading to death. Use of artificial salt blocks and licking road salt has been implicated in many occurrences of contagious ecthyma in bighorn sheep. The abrasion to oral tissues from salt is thought to increase transmission.

Contagious ecthyma was not known to occur in mountain goats until cases were discovered on Mt. Wardle in Kootenay National Park in the early 1970s. At that time, bighorn sheep also occurred in the Mt. Wardle area and it was speculated that the goats had been infected through contact with bighorns. Subsequently, a case of infected goats was reported from the BC Coast Range in an area where wild sheep do not occur.  Nonetheless, infection rates in mountain goats appear to be generally low.

Local residents and visitors to the park can help in tracking this disease by reporting occurrences of infected animals. Observations can be sent to wildlife biologist Alan Dibb at [email protected] or 250-347-6158.

Larry Halverson/Friends of Kootenay

Above photo:  A lamb from the Radium herd with sore mouth – Photo by Alan Dibb.

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