Deadly virus killed numerous bighorn sheep in South Okanagan this year | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Deadly virus killed numerous bighorn sheep in South Okanagan this year

A bighorn sheep

After the bluetongue virus began ravaging the bighorn sheep population near Grand Forks in August, members of the Wild Sheep Society of B.C. were hoping frost events would happen soon enough to prevent the flies that carry the disease from spreading to other parts of the province.

But that did not happen in time and it appears as though a herd in the South Okanagan has also been impacted by bluetongue.

READ MORE: Virus in West Kootenay bighorn sheep herd could spread to Okanagan

“In late September and early October we had a pulse of mortalities near Vaseux Lake and Okanagan Falls,” reads a Facebook post written by wildlife biologist Craig McLean of the Southern Okanagan Sportsmen's Association.

Fortunately there seem to have been enough frost events recently to have ended the problem.

“I suspect this outbreak has likely run its course for 2021.”

McLean wrote that a handful of the sheep that died were collared while several other carcasses were reported to him. He took some of the dead sheep to a lab where it was confirmed that bluetongue was the culprit.

READ MORE: Bighorn sheep in South Okanagan facing their own pandemic

“With regards to the South Okanagan Bighorn sheep we have lost some animals from the meta population but at this time we don’t have an overall understanding of impacts. The majority of deaths were documented south of Penticton between Heritage Hills Estates and Osoyoos.”

A group of collared animals from the Mount Hull area in Washington State were lost during the same time frame, which leads McLean to believe none of the South Okanagan sheep had immunity to this year’s outbreak.

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