If you’ve ever been out west, you’ve likely seen the fastest land animal on our continent: the pronghorn antelope. Running at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, these exotic-looking creatures are a sight to behold with their prong-like horns and great speed.
But sadly, they’ve recently started dropping like flies in the plains of Wyoming.
The state’s Wildlife and Fish Departments started noticing the phenomena back in February. The bodies of these magnificent creatures were found without injuries, and so seeming, without a logical cause of death.
However, upon further investigation, it’s been discovered that it’s a result of a pathogen known as Mycoplasma bovis. Similar to Mycobacterium bovids, a pathogen known to affect domestic cattle, it seems to be spreading throughout the state’s pronghorn populations, leaving hundreds dead in its wake.
As WGFD disease expert Hank Edwards told Fox Weather, the disease has so far been noted as the cause of death for about 200 or so of Wyoming’s pronghorn since mid-February. The epicenter of the outbreaks seems to be just south of Pinedale, Wyoming, where animals were noted to display signs of pneumonia and arthritis followed by death.
To stop the disease from spreading, officials have begun to cull (or euthanize) individuals affected and dying pronghorn. They are also working quickly to remove the dead bodies from the habitats, so they are not eaten, and then the pathogen is spread to other animals.
According to specialists, neither humans nor domestic household pets are at risk. However, other similar creatures known as ungulates, such as bison, mule deer, white-tailed deer, etc., are susceptible.
As Edwards noted to the outlet, “This is not the first occurrence of M. bovis being linked to pronghorn mortalities in” the state. However, these kinds of outbreaks are pretty rare. And one that Edwards and his department hope to nip in the bud before many more pronghorn or other animals are affected.
With any luck, the plains of the West will still be found teeming with these impressive creatures for a long, long time.