For Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD – The City of Marshfield Parks & Recreation Department announced the death of the female Big Horn sheep at Wildwood Park & Zoo. The ewe was the only remaining animal in the zoo’s sheep exhibit. Though official necropsy results were not available, it is suspected that the ewe likely succumbed to cardiogenic pulmonary edema. This condition usually occurs when a diseased or overworked heart cannot pump enough blood from the left ventricle to keep up with blood arriving from the lungs. This can lead to a backup of fluid within the lungs. The condition is exceptionally deadly for Big Horn sheep, a species that is naturally very prone to respiratory illness.
The death of Wildwood’s ewe comes at a time when staff was evaluating the sustainability of a Big Horn sheep herd at the zoo. Following the loss of the zoo’s adult male sheep, Rocky and the ewe’s lamb in August 2016, staff questioned whether Big Horn sheep were an appropriate species to display at Wildwood Park & Zoo due to environmental conditions and the natural history of the species itself.
Given the loss in the Big Horn sheep exhibit over the past 18 months, it is unlikely the zoo will display the species again.
Wild Big Horn sheep populations face many challenges. They are prone to infection, and have little natural immunity or ability to fight disease. Additionally, loss of suitable habitat and resources to domestic animal herds, as well as fragmentation of habitats is taking its toll on wild populations. Big Horn sheep populations might possibly require continuous intervention in order to maintain wild populations.