This just in; if you see a domestic sheep sneezing or coughing near Wheeler Peak, ewe-thanize it immediately.
The possibility that domestic sheep may have come in contact with the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness has New Mexico Game and Fish Department officials ready to pull their hair out.
“It’s a very serious deal,” said Elise Goldstein, a bighorn sheep biologist with the department.
That’s because domestic sheep normally carry a type of bacteria that bighorn sheep do not. Historically, when the two come in contact, many of the bighorns die from bacterial pneumonia.
“So this was extremely alarming because, if the bighorn had come into contact with the domestic (sheep) and contracted pneumonia, it could have resulted in a fairly large die-off,” said Goldstein.
Six unbranded domestic sheep were recently discovered roaming near the wilderness area, which is part of the Carson National Forest, where it joins Taos Pueblo.
Goldstein, Game and Fish officers, Pueblo Warchief Edwin Concha and his ecology staff recently scoured the area and euthanized five domestic sheep, but one could not be found.