Denver Zoo helping to save bighorn sheep in Utah

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DENVER (KDVR) — In the Navajo Nation in Utah, an animal strain of pneumonia is threatening to kill off their bighorn sheep herd. The Denver Zoo is helping the Navajo Nation protect the sheep.

The sheep in the Navajo Nation look similar to rocky mountain sheepm except they live in the desert in Utah.

“The males have these big curling horns and they are called rams because they are literally battering rams,” said Dr. Stefan Ekernas, Denver Zoo Rocky Mountain Great Plains program director.

In the Navajo Nation in Utah, the desert bighorn sheep are dying in numbers,

“They have pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia,” said Erkanis.

With a 70% herd reduction right now, it would only take a few years to wipe out the entire herd.

“We think it’s probably caused by spillover from domestic sheep,” said Erkanis.

Ekervas and a team of biologists from the Denver Zoo are working with the Navajo Nation right now to try to reverse this deadly trend.

“Place GPS collars to see where they are going, the next phase of the project is to do the same thing on domestic sheep to see if it’s the same strain type of this bacteria,” said Erkanis.

Using a capture and release method of tagging, tracking and monitoring the desert sheep movement, the Denver Zoo hopes that will provide invaluable information.

“Everything is on the table to try to figure out what we can do,” said Erkanis.

The Navajo bighorn sheep project will cost around half a million dollars and take about another three years to complete.

Hopefully, that will be in time.

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