This hunting season, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has redoubled its brucellosis surveillance efforts, collecting blood samples from hunter-harvested elk in key areas including the Madison, Paradise, and Shields valleys and other nearby areas.
Hunters who have received elk blood-sample tests are urged to please carefully follow the instructions included with the kit and return it immediately.
Brucellosis is a contagious bacterial infection in domestic animals, wildlife and humans worldwide. In Montana, it has only been detected in elk, bison and in cattle near Yellowstone National Park and cattle near Bridger. Brucellosis can cause pregnant cattle, bison and elk to abort their calves.
Following the second occurrence in livestock in Montana within a 12-month time span, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked Montana’s brucellosis-free status.
"Montana has been certified as brucellosis-free since 1985, and the recent occurrence of the disease has ranchers and other Montanans understandably concerned," said Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
This fall, tests from the National Veterinary Services suggested that the two recent brucellosis infections in livestock in southwestern Montana likely came from elk.
Hunters and landowners are now working together to manage the disease risk.
"This is a disease problem that should concern every Montanan, because it’s in the state’s best interest to maintain a healthy livestock industry and healthy wildlife populations," Maurier said.
Since 1981, FWP tested nearly 7,000 elk for brucellosis exposure, mostly in the Greater Yellowstone Area north and west of the park. The results of those tests show brucellosis exposure rates that range from 0 to 5.5 percent.
Maurier said that through the sampling, FWP will seek to establish the location of the disease in wildlife, complete wildlife and livestock risk assessments, and then determine if wildlife or livestock management practices need adjustment.
Maurier thanked ranchers, hunters, and representatives of federal and state agencies who have assisted in the effort to date, and urged their continued participation.For more information on Montana's brucellosis surveillance, contact the FWP wildlife laboratory at 406-994-6357.