Scabbed lips and exposed teeth are taking away from the beauty of some of Yellowstone’s most majestic residents. Five bighorn sheep in the park have been sporting the frightening appearance after an outbreak of sore mouth disease in the region.
Officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the National Park Service have stated that the outbreak, while not aesthetically pleasing, is not a huge cause for concern.
Found relatively commonly sore mouth does not usually prove to be fatal for those infected. This said, the disease is transmittable to humans, so officials are reminding people not to approach or touch any wildlife, so put the camera away, Gladys.
The virus, also known as contagious ecthyma, was originally found in farmed sheep and goats but is now vaccinated against, leaving only those in the wild susceptible to infection. According to the National Park Service, the virus has been found in bighorn sheep from Alaska down to California and in most cases, is spread via ewe to lamb.
As the images depict, the disease appears as scab-like sores around the mouth that usually heal up over a two to four-week period. The disease does, however, have some staying power in the wild. As lesions and scabs fall off of infected animals, they can infect animals as long as ten or twelve years later.