Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Yellowstone National Park and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Complete Brucellosis Workshop

Yellowstone National Park and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) concluded a workshop earlier this week that examined the science behind brucellosis and the feasibility or need for suppression of this non-native disease in the Yellowstone bison population.

The workshop featured a panel of scientists with backgrounds in wildlife management and disease ecology who discussed current bison conservation and brucellosis management within the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The goals of this plan are to conserve a free-ranging bison population of about 3,000 animals, while minimizing the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle.

The panel examined public attitudes toward the disease and specific scientific factors of Brucella abortus, the bacterium behind the non-native disease brucellosis, including immunology, disease ecology, bison behavior and demographics, conservation biology, and transmission risk to other wildlife and cattle.

At the close of the workshop, the panel provided several key conclusions:

• To date, management to maintain separation between cattle and bison appears to be effective at preventing transmission of brucellosis between these species because no documented transmission has occurred under the IBMP.

• The best available data do not support that vaccination of wild bison with currently available vaccines will be effective at suppressing brucellosis to a level that changes bison management strategies under the IBMP.

• Control of bison population size will likely include culling or removal as tools in the future, along with hunting. Past and current culling practices have not had an apparent effect on reducing the overall prevalence of brucellosis in the bison population.

• Intervention through contraception is not needed to achieve the current goals of the IBMP. Contraception could potentially be a valuable tool for brucellosis suppression, but the available data are insufficient to make a judgment at this time. Further research is needed in this area.

The agencies will consider the panel's findings in the ongoing development of short- and long-term strategies to conserve bison and minimize the risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to cattle. A final report from the panel is expected in about three months.

Hiking in Glacier National Park

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