Posted: Dec 17, 2012 12:38 PM by Chet Layman
Updated: Dec 17, 2012 12:54 PM
BOZEMAN - When you say brucellosis, most people think of bison. The Montana Livestock Industry has been working with the National Park Service to keep the disease away from Montana's cattle herds; but there is another animal that carries the disease - elk.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is three years in to a five-year study of Montana's elk herds. Brucellosis is present in some populations. While keeping Montana's cattle away from Yellowstone's bison has been fairly successful, biologist Neil Anderson says that isn't the case with elk.
"They reality is we've been fairly successful keeping those two species separated. With elk, it's a much more difficult process because they are so distributed. A lot of winter range is on private property where folks might be raising cattle. So that ability for those animals to contact cattle, especially if they are truly infected with the disease, it poses a risk to those cattle," Anderson said.
With the number of elk and the fact many winter on private lands, some of which will hold cattle in the spring and summer, the future of elk management could change if the disease begins to effect Montana's cattle herds. Anderson says public perception is a big issue with elk and brucellosis.
"That's one of the problems with this disease, although we can't really see any large population effects in elk populations. What it does do is it reduces that tolerance for these animals on the landscape, which ultimately hurts our ability to manage those animals."
Anderson says all involved will have to work together to tackle this issue, including landowners, FWP, sportsmen and Montana's livestock producers.
FWP is holding a meeting Tuesday evening to discuss some of the findings from the recent testing. The public is invited, 6 to 9 p.m. at the FWP office on South 19th Avenue in Bozeman.