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Conservation Groups: Managing Livestock More Effective to Contain Disease

There are no cases of bison transferring the disease brucellosis to livestock, studies show. (Debeo Morium/Flickr)
There are no cases of bison transferring the disease brucellosis to livestock, studies show. (Debeo Morium/Flickr)
December 20, 2017

HELENA, Mont. - Yellowstone conservation groups say the livestock industry should be the focus rather than bison or elk, to contain brucellosis.

Partners in the Interagency Bison Management Plan recently announced plans to kill up to 600 bison this winter to manage risk from the disease.

But Lloyd Dorsey, conservation director of the Sierra Club's Wyoming chapter, says the plan is based on the faulty premise that it will keep brucellosis from spreading to livestock.

He says even the National Academies of Sciences notes bison have never transferred this disease to cattle. He encourages officials to use up-to-date science for their management plans.

Dorsey points out, "The science clearly shows that if cattle, in particular, are kept separate from free-ranging elk and bison, that the bison and elk are healthier and the livestock industry is protected against disease."

Dorsey says vaccinating bison and elk against the disease is also ineffective and that it would be more effective to vaccinate cattle. The groups also recommend conserving predators such as bears and wolves, which help maintain healthy herds of big game.

This week, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission sent a letter to officials in Wyoming asking them to phase out elk feedgrounds. Conservation groups say this is a good idea.

Dorsey says these locations are a hotbed for diseases such as brucellosis, and are especially concerning as Chronic Wasting Disease spreads through the region.

"The elk feedgrounds in western Wyoming will likely, experts say, amplify the levels of that disease when it hits the elk feedground,” he says. “So, yet another disease to watch out for."

Groups including the Gallatin Wildlife Association, the Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates sent their letter of recommendations to the governors of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. It was sent partly in response to a National Academies of Sciences report from earlier this year on managing brucellosis.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT