Pasteurella multocida is a highly diverse group of bacteria recognized as important pathogens. Although P. multocida is not ordinarily associated with disease in Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis canadensis), numerous isolates were cultured in high numbers from free-ranging bighorn sheep in the Hells Canyon area of Idaho, Washington, and Oregon (USA) during the winter of 1995–96. Animals captured in Hells Canyon and held in captivity, and their offspring, also harbored P. multocida. Biochemical utilization tests on 90 isolates identified three subspecies: P. multocida multocida a (n=54); P. multocida multocida b (n=13); and P. multocida gallicida (n=15); and a non-speciated biotype, U6 (n=8). Genomic DNA digestion with restriction endonuclease Hha I separated the isolates into 62 unique restriction fragment length polymorphism profiles. Capsular type A was predominant (72% of isolates). Only one isolate type, which may have been transmitted from a feral goat, was capsular type D, possessed the structural gene, toxA, for dermonecrotoxin detected by polymerase chain reaction, and produced toxin as determined by monoclonal antibody immunoblot. In conclusion, bighorn sheep in this study carried diverse types of generally non-toxigenic P. multocida associated with epizootic pneumonia.

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