According to a recent press release, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has launched a study looking into a disease outbreak among the state's mountain goats. The unidentified disease has been causing widespread bouts of deadly diarrhea among the species.
The study will specifically look at goats on Mount Evans, one of Colorado's fourteen-thousand foot mountains that's a home to the species. While Mount Evans is often heavily trafficked by outdoor recreationists, the closure of the summit-reaching access road due to the COVID-19 pandemic has limited crowding substantially.
The mysterious diarrhea-causing illness has been blamed for the loss of nearly all mountain goat kids between 2013 and 2014. The illness again reared its head in the fall of 2019.
While various bacteria and parasites were found during a necropsy, none explained the widespread fatalities.
One pathogen that is being studied as a possible cause of the illness is E.coli. Levels of this pathogen are elevated in the Mount Evans area due to the presence of human recreationists and the waste they produce.
Thus far, bighorn sheep sharing the same environment have not displayed similar symptoms.
According to biologist Lance Carpenter, “If we saw this in our bighorn sheep, we would have a really big problem on our hands."
Read more about the study here.