Cailyn Glasser, Student, Royal Roads University, wrote:
Penticton Indian Band and Ministry of Environment BC staff and I responded to a mortality signal on a GPS collar tracking one of the Californa big horn sheep in the Penticton area. The collars were deployed to monitor Psoroptic mange (Psoroptis ovis) in Big horn sheep in the South Okanagan Similkameen. Psoroptis ovis is a non-burrowing mite that that feeds on skin exudates. It causes extreme itchiness, and loss of hair as the sheep scratches and rubs. Although the disease has been present in the United States for quite some time, the first reported case in Canada was in 2011 in the Okanagan Valley.
Psoroptis ovis causes extreme itchiness, and loss of hair as the sheep scratches and rubs. The animal's ears are often heavily affected, becoming scabby and stiff.
This particular sheep was part of a herd residing on and around the Penticton Indian Band reserve, and has been noted to be severely infected with the contagious Psoroptic mange disease. She was one of the ewes collared for observation in a preliminary collaborative monitoring project directed at learning more about Psorpotis ovis. It appears this ewe was predated by a cougar.
This mite is a new occurrence in the Okanagan Valley, different hypotheses exist around the cause and effects of the disease. Any observation of sheep showing symptoms of Psoroptis ovis are significant as little is known about the behavior of the disease in wild sheep populations.
James Pepper MSc., RPBio, Penticton Indian Band Natural Resources Manager and Community Environmental Services
Although the scientific works undertaken as part of this project are important, it is vital to understand that the Indigenous knowledge of this species must come to bear with all studies. It may very well be that this issue has occurred sometime in the past and that there is Indigenous Knowledge available as to how it can be corrected, fixed or mitigated. This Knowledge is often overlooked but, like many issues which science of tackling today, Psoroptis ovis may have already been managed by local people's. Rather than starting from scratch it is always good practice to engage with the local indigenous people to discuss the issues and incorporate their placed-based knowledge into the process. Potential solutions to this problem could be right in front of our noses, we just need to take the time to look for them in the right way.
Wildlife Health Fact Sheet "Mange" in California Bighorn Sheep
Andrew Walker, MSc, RPBio- Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resources BC, provided some editing of this student post.