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Agencies Evaluating Results Of Recent Elk Brucellosis Surveillance

Headlines

Thu Feb 19 13:22:00 MST 2015

From Jan. 30 to Feb. 3, researchers captured and tested ninety-three elk as part of surveillance coordinated by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) to evaluate the presence of brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone area and to better understand how elk (and the disease) move across the landscape.

The recent surveillance results from the Mill Creek area of Paradise Valley show more than 50 percent of the elk sampled there have been exposed to brucellosis. In contrast, the level of exposure in elk in the North Absaroka area of FWP Region 5 was found to be just over three percent.  

In the Mill Creek area, 16 of 30 adult female elk tested positive for exposure to brucellosis (seropositive). Sixty-three cow elk were tested in the North Absaroka area between Mission Creek and the Main Boulder River where two tested seropositive.

All animals that tested positive in the field were fitted with radio collars to track their movement, while pregnant animals received implants to help researchers determine if and where they give birth or abort.

“Obviously we understand that producers, landowners and sportsmen will be concerned about these numbers,” said FWP Director Jeff Hagener. “We have been, and we will continue to work with all groups to address concerns about the commingling of elk, and cattle and management efforts to reduce that commingling, during the transmission risk period.”

State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski echoed Hagener’s comments. “No doubt this will rekindle local discussions about effective and reasonable risk management. We need to look at this very carefully.”

On the ground, Region 3 Wildlife Manager Howard Burt said the plan for now will be to implement the 2015 brucellosis annual work plan as approved by the Fish & Wildlife Commission.

The brucellosis surveillance is funded by FWP and a grant from USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).