At least 20 bighorn sheep have died from pneumonia in the past few months

A report from the Desert Sun chronicles the discovery of at least 20 desert bighorn sheep of the San Gorgonio mountain population that have been discovered dead since December. Pneumonia has claimed the lives of the animals and now officials are trying to determine just how the infection inflicted the group.

The article, which is worth a read and can be found here, notes that all ages of bighorn sheep have been dying from pneumonia – with researchers discovering the bodies of the animals traditionally graze the area of Mission Creek and Whitewater Canyon up to the San Jacinto peak.

As for what’s causing the illness in the bighorn sheep, it’s believed that it could be one of three possibilities: pneumonia was carried by another group of bighorn sheep across the 10 freeway to the southern population, pathogens carried by feral cattle that are found in the Whitewater Canyon area, or bacteria carried by domestic goats – which may have come from those owned by a Morongo Valley resident who let them loose to graze on public lands.

Officials say the discovery was “terrible timing” as the Trump Shutdown as funding for additional studies, to remove the cattle, and for fencing to protect certain areas was suddenly “unavailable.”

Read more at the Desert Sun.