Montana Outdoors

Aug 5, 2013 1:15 PM by Winston Greeley - Montana FWP

Ways of managing brucellosis in Montana eyed

A few years ago, a case of brucellosis in cattle was traced back to elk in Southwest Montana. Winston Greely with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks shows us how wildlife managers are working to prevent another brucellosis transmission in the future.

Bison have been at the center of managing brucellosis in the wild for the past century, but in the last few years wildlife managers are looking at elk as another source of brucellosis on the landscape.

"Yes there is brucellosis in bison in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, however in elk that exposure rate so the number of animals that have been exposed and test positive on blood tests has greatly increased over the last 10 or so years," Neil Anderson with the FWP explained.

The increase of brucellosis in Montana elk led to the creation of a Citizen Working Group, which last year provided management recommendations for dealing with elk and brucellosis.

"The recommendations is to manage it, identify it, minimize it to the extent possible, not simply by killing elk - but by seeing if you can move elk and cattle away from each other - with a focus on that time of year when the risk is greatest," FWP's Quentin Kujala said.

Montana's current known area of brucellosis is located in the southwest corner of the state, an area that wildlife researchers are in the process of learning more about.

"It's a pretty significant area in Montana and if you look at some of the other states its' even larger. So our goal hopefully is to understand where its' at, try and learn more about it - and then start having those discussions on what are we going to do, is there anything we can do," Anderson commented.

There's currently no practical method for eliminating brucellosis in wildlife, so wildlife managers are partnering with ag producers to initiate a prevention strategy.

"So, it is kind of a partnership. We are trying to talk to landowners and say during the risk period for brucellosis, which is basically from mid-January through the calving period in mid-June. This is where the elk are and this is where the high risk areas are, so can we do things to try and keep elk and cattle separate in those areas," Anderson said.

State wildlife officials say that although only in its' first year, the prevention strategy is proving effective. The Montana Fish and Wildlife commission will be discussing further brucellosis recommendations on Thursday, Aug. 8.

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