Bighorn rams in Yellowstone National Park are getting a lot of attention over some not-so-pretty close ups. Photos on the park’s Flickr page show multiple rams with swollen, distorted mouths.
Park officials said Monday that the photos are believed to depict the park’s first known cases of a sore mouth disease known as contagious ecthyma.
Vicki Regula, a spokeswoman for the park, said “our park videographer had taken some footage of some rams between Mammoth and Gardiner and so far it’s only the breeding age rams in the park that have been observed with lesions.”
Park biologists say the contagious sore mouth disease was observed in five rams who likely contracted it from each other or from ewes during the most recent breeding season in November.
“This is the first time that they have observed it in the park," said Regula. "However in wild bighorn sheep it’s widespread.”
Regula says park biologists will be monitoring the outbreak but that sore mouth disease is usually harmless and should clear up on its own within a few weeks.
Sore mouth disease can be transmitted to humans who come into direct contact with infected animals so park officials are reminding visitors not to approach or touch wildlife.