State biologists are asking for help from hunters as they track bacteria that cause respiratory disease in big game animals.

The bacterium, mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, is commonly referred to as movi.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says movi has been associated with significant die-offs of bighorn sheep in the Lower 48. Movi does not affect humans but makes animals more susceptible to pneumonia.

Fish and Game has found the bacteria in Dall's sheep, mountain goats, caribou and moose here in the state. All but one of the animals sampled appeared healthy, but the pathogen has been associated with the death of an emaciated caribou.

Biologists are asking hunters to bring in recently harvested big game heads to be sampled. They are specifically looking for Dall's sheep, mountain goat, or Delta bison harvested, as well as the heads of certain moose, caribou and muskox populations.

Hunters will not have to surrender the heads; Fish and Game will just swab the nasal cavity to collect a sample. They ask that the heads should be brought in within two weeks of harvest, and be kept cool but not frozen, also key to the study is where the animal was killed. According to Fish and Game, hunters' personal information will not be associated with the laboratory results.

For a complete list of what is needed check with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.

"We know that hunters understand the importance of disease surveillance and we appreciate their assistance with this effort," said Bruce Dale, director of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation.

The presence of movi in an animal does not necessarily mean it is sick or will become sick. Both domestic and wild sheep and goats can carry the strains of bacteria they are adapted to while showing no signs of illness.

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