Statement on M. ovi implicated in Alaska caribou death

A statement from Yukon's Chief Veterinary Officer of Disease Monitoring Dr. Mary VanderKop.

The Government of Yukon is aware of the State of Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game’s findings that Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (“M. ovi”) may have been a factor in the death of a caribou from the Forty-Mile herd in Alaska.

This is something Yukon takes quite seriously. While M. ovi may not have been the only factor in the death of this caribou, the Forty-Mile herd moves seasonally into the Yukon mountains where it also shares the range of thinhorn sheep.

Previous detections of M. ovi in Alaskan wildlife have been in healthy sheep and goats. This announcement includes M. ovi detection in healthy Alaskan moose and caribou.

The Government of Yukon actively monitors our vulnerable wild sheep and we provide sampling kits so hunters can swab the noses of harvested sheep. The kits, which have been available for several years, contain instructions to help hunters properly gather and submit samples. The Yukon Wild Sheep Foundation is providing incentives for hunters who deliver sampling kits from the sheep they harvest this fall.

We also continue to offer support for farmers who want to test their domestic sheep or goats, because these animals may carry the bacteria.

Because of the new information announced by Alaska, we will expand surveillance of M. ovi and will sample Yukon caribou when we are monitoring them. We will also provide sampling kits to any hunters who are interested in contributing to the surveillance of species other than sheep.

We continue to work closely with the scientists in Alaska and British Columbia to jointly help protect the health of Yukon wildlife.

M. ovi is a respiratory bacterium that can cause disease in susceptible animals. Consumption of meat harvested from an animal with M. ovi does not pose a human-health risk. If hunters have concerns about organs or tissues that appear abnormal in harvested animals, they should speak with a conservation officer.

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Mary VanderKop

Media contact 

Erin Loxam
Communications, Department of Environment

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